A crowd of 50 concerned parents and school administrators gathered Monday evening at the Andrew Jackson High School media center for hear Superintendent Phipps and Bryan Vaughn discuss the status of the AJMS fire clean up and current safety improvement efforts. This meeting is the last of four meetings at the area high school related to the safety of the students.
Superintendent Phipps talked about how he learned of the fire with his wife taking the call, and telling him “The school is on fire!” “The cleanup is pretty much over. The company hired to conduct the cleanup, Servepro, brought in about 240 folks, and ran 24/7 shifts.” Said Phipps. The process of cleaning up is more than wiping off the soot. He described that the damage was much more extensive than originally thought.
The fire caused some I-beams to melt and damaged the air conditioner and ductwork. The process now is to paint the damaged surfaces throughout the school. “We want to make sure that the school is 100% safe for every child when they return. We have hired an environmental company to test for allergens so we know the school is safe.”
The school was insured, so the cost of repairs to the school was covered. The repair costs are expected to be about 3 million dollars. The school will have to pay the $5000 deductible. The school is expected to reopen on April 16th, the first Monday after Spring Break. Kelly Farmer commented on how her students have adjusted to the 7th graders. “Several of our students have asked if we can keep them.”
Bryan Vaughn reported that all the automatic protective factors in the school worked as intended. The fire systems all worked together to reduce damage to the school. Vaughn said that after watching the videos of the fire, he was amazed how quickly the school filled with toxic smoke. He commented about how grateful he was that the fire occurred when school was out, and students were not there. He felt that the experience helps him shift some priorities.
Vaughn showed the crowd a video by Auburn University about a program entitled ALICE. Video
He talked about the program as three simple actions, Run, Hide, Confront. He acknowledges that confronting an active shooter seems dangerous. He emphasized that it is a last resort action. He reports that all high school students have been shown the ALICE video.
Other efforts have been in process, or are in plans for the coming year. The bond that was approved in the last couple of years has allowed AJHS and AJMS to have doors that can be automatically locked by one touch. The doors have been replaced with doors that remain locked and have much smaller windows. The doors are sensored so they will alarm if left open too long.
Plans are being finalized to have a School Resource Officer in the Middle School and the High School beginning in the coming school year. Efforts to increase communications in a crisis are being encouraged. “I would rather have 475 calls to 911, than one or two.” Vaugh said. We are working on a texting app so students can send emergency messages quickly.
Vaugh said the district is going to be working with faculty to prepare them on how to help. Safety training will become part of the regular orientations for students. The school district tip line will be emphasized to encourage students to have a family or community watch stance. If they see something, to say something.
Several programs such as the vestibules in each school and the danger to self or others protocol have been in place for some time. The vestibules in each school were implemented after the Sandy Hook shootings. At present, over 1000 cameras are operating in all the schools in the district, and more are planned for the AJ schools. Vaughn indicated that high definition cameras are to be installed in AJ stadium.
The district has spent over $100,000 on new radios for the schools to help increase communication ability. The K-9 and metal detector sweeps will continue. Each year the school district sweeps 30-40 times with the K-9 program. There have been no guns detected since the metal detector program has been put in place.
This coming year, Attendees at AJ sporting events will have to pass through metal detectors. If the system alerts, the attendee would be kept from entering the game, until the attendee can pass through without alarm.
There were few questions for the speakers at the end of the hour and 10-minute meeting. Bryan Vaughn encouraged anyone with questions to contact him.