JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — Safety is a primary focus for teachers and students returning to the classroom.
The same goes for law enforcement in Jacksonville, who spent Friday doing hands-on training to prepare for active shooter situations before the new school year.
Even though they do it several times yearly, Jacksonville North Pulaski School District’s Security Director Chris Oldham said it never loses its importance.
“These are not traditional times,” Oldham said. “We have to think forward.”
The district’s commissioned school security officers and Jacksonville police focused mainly on building safety and how to respond to an active shooter.
“The average response time for an active shooter for law enforcement is three to five minutes,” Oldham said. “We’ve eliminated that. Now our response time is instant.”
The school district has added body scanners in its secondary schools, which used to be used only for specific school events.
Students will walk through them daily upon entering and exiting the building.
“The scanner’s job is to find a weapon,” Oldham said. “And it will.”
According to Oldham, the district has recovered around 10 weapons since it opened in 2016. He said technology, like body scanners, will significantly help increase security.
“We’re here to have a safe school day, protect our staff and scholars,” Oldham said. “We’re going to be proactive.”
Carlos Williams is one of the school security officers who participated in the training and also has a son entering the ninth grade.
Williams said it’s reassuring to know safety is a priority for the school district.
“Knowing that my child can go to school, get a good education and not have to worry about someone bringing a gun or a knife to school,” Williams said. “They can focus more on getting good grades.”
And Oldham believes the priorities of the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District are in the right places.
“Our school board and superintendent and community, we believe we’re doing what needs to be done,” Oldham said.
The first day of school for the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District is Aug. 21.