Safety and security were the focus of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools back-to-school briefing held Aug. 7 at Charlotte East Language Academy.
Superintendent Earnest Winston, Principal Carmen Concepcion and CMS Police Chief Lisa Mangum provided an overview of enhanced security measures that will be in place when students return to school Aug. 26.
“We understand that parents who send their children to CMS expect our best efforts every day to keep their children safe,” Winston said. “We have deployed a variety of measures to help protect everyone and keep our focus where it should be – on teaching and learning.”
The new security enhancements include:
- A crisis-alert system that has a beacon light alert and panic cards for all staff
- Two CMS Police K-9s, trained in narcotic and firearm detection
- Safety screenings at all high schools, with expansion into middle and K-8 schools
- Expansion and enhancement of video surveillance (CMS has 7,125 cameras in its schools)
- Active survival training for all employees (more than 8,000 employees have been trained)
- Physical improvements, such as upgraded locks, stronger doors and digital access controls for main entries
The crisis-alert system, which was piloted at Charlotte East, has been installed in each CMS high school.
Concepcion demonstrated the crisis-alert system, which uses an automated notification process that sends school-wide alerts for lockdowns, evacuations, severe weather and emergency medical notifications. A beacon light installed in each classroom ceiling and common area will flash red for complete lockdown, yellow for modified lockdown, green for evacuation and blue for a weather emergency. All staff members will be issued panic cards. A staff member will be able to trigger the beacon system, based on the type of emergency.
Mangum introduced members of the CMS Police Department’s K-9 unit: Gage, the district’s narcotics detection K-9 and his handler, Detective Robin Cooper, and Nico, the CMS firearms detection K-9, and his handler, Detective Tim Jolly. They demonstrated searches in the media center and hallways.
Winston emphasized that all CMS employees must pass a rigorous background check, which includes fingerprinting. He recognized the support from county leaders who funded nearly 60 additional counselors, psychologist and social workers. He also reminded parents to sign into LobbyGuard when visiting schools.
“The safety and security of our students and staff is dependent on all of us,” Winston said. “CMS cannot do this work alone. As we move forward together, we can make a difference in the lives of our children and make our communities safer.”