The community calls for change to Homestead Elementary School safety | News | #schoolsaftey

This photo portrays the current satellite image of the Homestead Elementary Grounds. This handout was given at the May 8 meeting. 

Director of Schools William Stepp believes that last week’s informational meeting about what the county should do to ensure the safety of the students of Homestead Elementary School went well.

“I think the commissioners and school board are open,” said Stepp. “I think they too believe there needs to be some sort of solution. Now, I don’t think we’ve all agreed on what exactly is the long-term solution, but I think from that meeting I could tell that moving that playground and getting the fence in the back would be a good start.”

This proposed safety plan is still in the project management phase. Stepp wants to get feedback from the community, the board of education and the county commissioners to address the safety issues and provide information. This meeting allowed the audience to question and offer potential solutions for the planning group to consider.

Stepp said that there will be another informational meeting soon. Visit the Cumberland County School’s website at for more information about when the next meeting will be scheduled.

“You can’t teach a kid if a kid doesn’t feel safe,” said Sheriff Casey Cox during the May 8 meeting.

Stepp described that the plan would occur in steps or phases in two segments: short-term and long-term. Short-term the goal is to build a fence and move the playground. The fence would follow the perimeter of the back of the school. Transplanting the playgrounds mitigates the potential for an unsafe and unsupervised occurrence. Stepp said he hopes to get the short-term plan started over the summer.

Stepp wants to take action pending the review and approval from the BOE. The board needs to decide what kind of funding is available and how quickly they can get this project started to protect the kids.

For the long-term, Stepp proposed ultimately moving all of the students into one building with one key.

The safety concerns of the community are that the students are not all under one roof and key because there are many keys for the older buildings. Students are not being protected enough when outside in the case of an active shooter. The proximity of the two major highways that intersect right in front of the school is a concern for students who walk to school. Strangers coming through the school property to use the playgrounds from the tower or walking their dogs present a threat of trespassing during school hours.

Stepp and his team heard and noted these concerns. They will be taken into consideration for the planning of this project.

The safety protocols that are currently in place are buzzers on ten of the exterior doors that receive high traffic, School Resource Officers patrolling the campus often performing door checks, every teacher equipped with a key to their classroom to keep locked while school is in session, every teacher has a walkie-talkie to use for communication with the SROs and the front office, the students are required to travel the campus using the Buddy System wherein there is always another student who travels with them at all times and there is video footage is all around the campus.

“Teachers are trained to notify admin/SRO of unregistered visitors or other safety concerns immediately,” said Ashlee Watts, assistant principal of Homestead Elementary School.

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