SPRINGFIELD — Safety wasn’t the first item on the agenda at Thursday’s Effingham County Board of Education meeting but it has long been foremost in the members’ minds.
In an unanimous vote, the board approved the construction of vestibules at the entrances of Effingham County High School, Ebenezer Middle School, and Effingham College and Career Academy. The structures, to be built by Pope Construction Company, will add an extra layer of security at the schools in case an intruder tries to enter.
The cost of the work is covered by a state grant. In the wake of a Feb. 14 shooting that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and faculty members at a school in Parkland, Fla., the Georgia General Assembly approved $16 millions in new funds for school security across the state.
At $55,539, the Effingham County High School vestibule accounts for more than half the approved local project’s total cost $107,519.
“It’s a little more complicated (to build) there with the size of the school and it actually has a little reception area included with that,” Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse said.
Vestibules have already been erected at the system’s elementary schools and Pope Construction has received the OK to draw plans to add them at the system’s other middle and high schools.
“You will be getting that (information) real soon,” Shearouse told the board.
In another effort to boost security, the board approved the hiring of additional resource officers earlier this year.
Shearouse said the layout of the schools not included in the current project makes vestibule additions more complex.
“I’ll give you an example,” he said. “At South Effingham High School, you have the logo going into the front of the school. Where the (vestibule) wall needs to go, you would have to put it over the logo. They are going to have to put (the wall) between a window, which means they are going to have to do some additional work because of the window situation in the media center or it wouldn’t look right."
Because of the special nature of the materials needed for construction, it will take about eight weeks before everything needed for the vestibules is collected, Shearouse said. He explained that the work at Effingham High School might start sooner because a lot of it will require lumber.
“We don’t have a time frame (for completion of the project),” Shearouse said. “I hoped and tried to get it done during the summer.”
In other action Thursday, the board aapproved a procurement plan for the School Nutrition Department and a class size resolution for 2018-19. The class sizes will remain unchanged from 2017-18.