CLARKSBURG -- Harrison County students and their parents will notice some changes to area schools when the doors open Tuesday. Many of those changes deal with increased security as students' safety remains a paramount concern.
Among the changes:
n All elementary schools will now have the front doors locked. Admittance can only be gained by buzzing the doorbell of an electronic security device.
n All school buses are now numbered on their roofs to allow for easy detection by helicopter or airplane.
No specific incidents have spurred the crackdown on security, school officials say. They are simply preventive measures, officials say.
"I think the safety measures are warranted because our society is changing," said Adamston Elementary School Principal James Eakle. "You wish you didn't have to do it, but I'm glad we can put these things in place."
The front-door security systems will be added to middle and high schools throughout the year, with the goal of having all schools outfitted by next year, according to administrative assistant Marcel Malfregeot, who is overseeing the project. The cost per school is $3,000.
A security camera, monitored from the office, gives the operator a clear picture of visitors, before allowing them entrance. School personnel have an electronic badge that is swiped to allow them entry.
Several schools used the apparatuses last year.
Numbering the tops of buses was Sheriff Jim Jack's idea.
"The fact of the matter is it could help us locate a bus that was missing or hijacked," Jack said. "If we never have to use it, fine. But if it works one time, it would be worth it."
The cost for the project is about $3,000, said Victor Gabriel, school administrative assistant for transportation, maintenance and support services. The money will be reimbursed by the state in the transportation budget, he said.
Lost Creek Elementary PTA President Pamela Sutton has mixed feelings about the tightened security.
"I think the numbers on the tops of the buses are a good thing," she said. "But I'm kind of uncomfortable about having to go through security to get in to see my child. But I understand it is a safety issue to protect the children."
There are some other visible changes students and parents will notice in Harrison County schools this year. County personnel have been working all summer to get the schools ready for opening day, according to Gabriel.
Big Elm Elementary now has 27,000 new floor tiles that replaced the carpeting, Gabriel said. Washington Irving Middle has a freshly painted auditorium, and new auditorium seats will be installed soon.
Simpson Elementary has fresh interior paint. Lumberport Middle School will soon get a new gym floor, and Robert C. Byrd High's parking lot has been paved. Paving also took place at Johnson Elementary and Nutter Fort Elementary.
"All the schools look superb, and we're ready to go," Gabriel said.
Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.