By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Aug. 25 — School board members and administrators touted a successful first week for Page County Public Schools during last Thursday’s board meeting, including improvements to school safety.
Through two grants secured by the Page County Sheriff’s Office, two additional School Resource Officers (SROs) will now be funded, filling vacancies at both Shenandoah and Luray Elementary. Now, all nine schools in the local division will have an SRO on site.
Dr. Antonia Fox, superintendent of PCPS, however, added that the sheriff’s office was continuing to secure staff for Luray Middle School and the Page County Technical Center, as well as additional funding for the SRO position at Springfield Elementary. Each site has an SRO, but not full time.
Plans are to assign Deputy Lamma and Deputy Atwood to Shenandoah and Luray Elementary, respectively.
“We just again want to thank our law enforcement and emergency services for their partnership,” Dr. Fox said at least week’s school board meeting. “We met with them last week, and we are going to continue meeting quarterly with them.
“We’re just grateful because they are helping us address concerns,” Dr. Fox added. “They’re bringing ideas to the table, and they are also being receptive to things we’re bringing to the table in terms of being more efficient, and one of those things in the Handle With Care program.”
Informally, the notification program began last year, but formally this year, school administrators will receive notices from law enforcement if a student has been “involved in an incident.” While the notification will not include any details about the incident, it will put administrators and teachers on notice that the student should be “handled with care” due top an “incident” outside of school.
Safety protocols have been reviewed and improved; however, a school shooter drill planned for early August was canceled. No reason has been publicly stated.
Dr. Paul Johnson, assistant superintendent of humans resources and business operations, said last week that the recent meeting with law enforcement was “really beneficial”. He reported that pre-packaged trauma kits have been placed in each building, the division’s crisis action guidelines have been updated, blueprints of each school are being digitized, and additional radios are coming for school buses (currently held up by supply chain issues).
In terms of health safety issues, mask wearing will remain voluntary — not mandatory — as only 10 active COVID-19 cases (six students, four staff) were reported during the first week of school among an enrollment of nearly 3,000.
PCPS received $152,900 in federal funds through the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (VISSTA) for additional end-to-end COVID-19 testing — not only for students and staff, but vendors, suppliers and support staff as well. A resolution requesting a budget amendment to allocate the funds was unanimously approved and forwarded to the Page County Board of Supervisors.
In addition, the local school system will begin partnering with Page Memorial Hospital and Valley Health to offer telehealth services in schools. A licensed nurse will assist the process as school-distributed Chromebooks will help connect families and physicians.
From a staffing standpoint, local schools still had two vacancies that Dr. Johnson noted last Thursday — a school counselor, and a high school math teacher. Eight long-term substitutes that signed on to teaching positions are enrolled in coursework to earn certification, according to Dr. Johnson, while eight others are in preliminary meetings to do so.
For more information on local schools, visit the PCPS website.
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