In light of last month’s elementary school shooting that shook the nation, Metro Nashville Public Schools officials are looking to shift dollars to speed up progress on school safety projects already in the works.
Issues high on the district’s to-do list are addressing locking systems on internal and external doors, ensuring all school employees wear ID cards, and making sure emergency exits are well identified.
“The immediate reaction is, let me make sure we’re doing things the right way,” Director of Schools Jesse Register told the district school board Tuesday in explaining his reaction to the school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 elementary school students and six school personnel dead.
Picking up the pace on the safety systems means shifting about $1.25 million in other capital project spending for improvements this budget year, according to Tony Majors, assistant superintendent of student services.
While the school assesses the state of its security systems, Tennessee lawmakers are considering moves to beef up the number of armed personnel in school buildings. MNPS is home to some 200 school safety officers for the district but has no armed officers in its 75 elementary schools, said Register.
While he said he’s open to discussion about safety needs — particularly in making sure all staff know what to do in the case of an emergency situation — Register said he is opposed to teachers carrying guns on campus.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have anyone armed in a school that is not a fully trained law enforcement officer,” he said.
At the same school board meeting, members unanimously approved a construction and renovation program that includes $159 million worth of projects the district wants to focus on in the 2013-14 school year, including the reopening of the former Waverly Belmont Junior High School as an elementary school.
The total construction budget reflects $1.2 billion in projects planned through 2019. Because funding for the projects is funneled through Metro government, the full six-year plan now heads to the Metro Council for review. School officials are primarily concerned with edits city officials make to the spending proposal for next school year.