Security upgrades in Pitt County schools have created a safer environment for students, and are above national averages.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 88 percent of schools had written plans to respond to an active shooter, and 70 percent of those had drills to practice the plan. The study also found that about 75 percent of schools had security cameras, and 43 percent had security personnel at least once a week.
In all of those categories, Pitt County schools had 100 percent readings. In Lenoir County, all schools had written active shooter plans and drills to practice the plans, but only 60 percent of schools had cameras and 53 percent had security personnel at least once a week.
Those who have been in schools in the East for decades said the security now versus then is like night and day.
“Doors were always opened, they were propped open. People could come and go as they pleased,” said Cathy Kirkland, Principal at Eastern Elementary School.
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, schools in the East have been increasing their security. In Pitt County, about 1,500 cameras have been installed in schools. Schools are also under a controlled access, which means people have to be buzzed in to gain entry.
Jeff Hudson, security specialist for county schools, said they spend anywhere between $300,000 and $400,000 each year on security. Since Sandy Hook, the board of education has started a separate security budget for all schools.
“Since then we’ve put in cameras in all our elementary and middle schools, and high schools of course,” Hudson said. “We have buzz in systems at all our middle schools and elementary schools.”
Hudson said when they do lock down drills, often times they are unannounced so they are as realistic as possible. He said moving forward, they are going to focus on having better access control at all schools.