By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 17 — Last week local officials took a big step toward a partnership that will provide real time communication if the worst every takes place on one of the nine campuses of Page County Public Schools.
Through the financial backing of foundations that support their efforts, the Luray Police Department and the Page County Sheriff’s Office have partnered with local school officials to provide the LifeSpot app, which offers real time communication during an “active threat.” Four school officials began training on the new app today.
“I see it as an addition to our insurance policy,” Dr. Paul Johnson told school board members during an Oct. 13 meeting where he first presented the application’s potential. “We hope we never use it, but it could prove valuable if we have it.”
Dr. Johnson had just returned from the National Threat Assessment Conference, where he learned about an app that allows faculty and staff the ability to alert law enforcement immediately of a situation, as well as report injuries and what they are seeing on the scene. The app uses color-coded dots to track teachers, students, faculty, law enforcement and first responders all within the “geofence” digitally outlining each school campus.
“Any time you have an incident like this, time is of the essence,” Sheriff Chad Cubbage told school board members during the Oct. 13 meeting. “I just think we need to do our due diligence to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the kids within our school system, and communication is going to be key to response time.”
Both Sheriff Cubbage and Luray Police Chief Bow Cook spoke in favor of the new application, noting the benefits of the app’s functions to coordinate emergency response to an “active threat” at a local school.
“When an emergency happens, 911 can get flooded with calls…and that can delay response…but this is instant, within a few seconds we would be alerted,” Chief Cook told the school board on Oct. 13, acknowledging that his wife was a teacher. “I am 100 percent behind this…I think we should have had it yesterday.”
When school board members began to have concerns about the $12,000 cost the first year, and the $10,000 annual ongoing cost, both Chief Cook and Sheriff Cubbage pledged financial support through their respective foundations. The initial cost will be split three ways between Luray Police, the Sheriff’s Office and the school system, with each paying $4,000. In terms of the ongoing cost, all three groups pledged ongoing support.
“School safety is a priority,” school superintendent Dr. Antonio Fox said at last week’s donation ceremony. “We hope to transition over to local funding. If [the law enforcement foundations] can’t [fund it], it will be on our board.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Chief Cook added, noting that fundraisers could be held.
“Everyone is committed to its longevity,” Dr. Fox said.
During the school board’s Nov. 10 meeting, Dr. Johnson reported that “Train the Trainer” sessions for LifeSpot would begin on Thursday, Nov. 17. Initially, the four attendees of the National Threat Assessment Conference (the school division’s “safety team”) will be trained on the functions of the new app. Then all faculty and staff — to include all bus drivers, coaches and anyone who interacts with students on school grounds — will be trained in 45-minute sessions on the functions of the app. Once training is complete, the system will be implemented.
Dr. Johnson said he looked into several comparable products with push notifications, but LifeSpot was already compatible to work with both Android and Apple IPhones in much the same way an “Amber Alert” works. LifeSpot was developed by a career law enforcement officer, who dealt with school shootings in Colorado. PCPS describes the system as “very user friendly and easy to access.”
“PCPS would like to thank our local law enforcement partners for their support of this app, and specifically thank the Luray Police Foundation, the Page County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, Bill Dudley of Bill Dudley Associates, Art Grandberg of Tax Matters, Russell Jenkins, and Dave Tong of Premier Technologies, for their generous financial donations in support of the acquisition of this product,” the local school division stated in a press release issued on Monday.
Local law enforcement, emergency services and school officials coordinated an active shooter drill last month at Luray High School.
For more information about Page County Public Schools, visit their website.
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