Rhea County officials study access to older schools

Rhea County officials study access to older schools

January 18th, 2013 by Tom Davis in Local Regional News

Jerry Levengood, the director of schools in Rhea County, Tenn.

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DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County school officials are investigating ways to tighten access to older school buildings.

Director of Schools Jerry Levengood presented school board members two options Thursday: building glass-walled entries at Frazier and Rhea Central elementary schools at a combined cost of $23,500, or placing cameras in the lobbies and equipping doors with electronic locks that could be opened by school personnel as needed. That solution would cost about $2,150 total, he said.

"Schools used to be built with only the fire marshal in mind. They had enough doors to get everybody out in a hurry," Levengood said. "Now we're in an age where the focus is to keep [unauthorized individuals] out and protect everybody inside."

Board member Dale Harris said steps such as these "won't stop an incident like Sandy Hook [site of the December school shooting in Connecticut]. If somebody wants to get in, he can shoot his way in." But he agreed security improvements are needed.

Board Chairman B.J. McCoy said three additional school resource officers are needed to ensure each school has a full-time officer. Board members agreed to study the proposal.

They also agreed to serve as the fiscal agent for a reorganized adult education region including Rhea, Meigs and McMinn counties. Rhea County adult education supervisor Margaret Bott said that under federal pressure state officials have decided to combine 87 adult education programs statewide into 47. While classes and teachers will not be affected by the change, there will be a reduction in administrative costs.

Meigs and McMinn adult education officials have asked her to supervise the new region, she said. She will submit a grant proposal to the state, with state officials to make a final decision on the project.

Also, board member Patrick Fisher submitted his resignation at the end of the meeting. Fisher was arrested in August and December 2012 on drug and weapons charges.

"Due to the charges, I feel I have let down Rhea County," he said in a prepared statement. "I feel I will be found not guilty," but he said his leaving the board would be in the best interest of the county.