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School safety upgrades progressing
Julie Montgomery chats with a coworker inside the Effingham County High School vestibule recently. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
There is a lot of traffic that goes through here and we’ve had a lot of comments from parents that they feel their kids are safer (because of the vestibule).
Julie Montgomery, Effingham County High School receptionist

SPRINGFIELD — The passageway to student safety in Effingham County includes vestibules.

Effingham County High School receptionist Julie Montgomery said the one she mans is working according to plan. She used to be stationed in the school’s office.

“It was a smooth adjustment,” she said. “I thought I was not going to like it. I thought I was going to be lonely — but not a chance.”

Montgomery sits inside an enclosure on left side of the school’s entrance. No one can enter the building from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. without encountering her. 

The door automatically locks at 8:25 a.m. when the bell rings to signal the start of the school day.

“Everything stays shut and locked all day long,” Montgomery said. “Nobody can get in without me letting them in (by pressing a button).”

The entrance stays quite busy throughout the day because of visiting parents, late-arriving students and guests.

“There is a lot of traffic that goes through here and we’ve had a lot of comments from parents that they feel their kids are safer (because of the vestibule),” Montgomery said.

In case of an emergency or someone acting suspiciously, Montgomery can contact a resource officer with a radio.

The addition of the vestibule at Effingham County High School was easy for construction workers.

“It feels like it fit here,” Montgomery said.

“The first time I went in (after it was completed) I didn’t even notice it,” Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse said after the April 3 Effingham County Board of Education meeting. “I think that’s a good sign. It looks like it has been part of the building forever and that’s certainly great.

“It’s a good addition.”

Construction has been a tad more complex at other facilities. A window had to be added at South Effingham Middle School and South Effingham High School encountered delays because the front of the building includes a lot of glass.

“We are improving that and it is taking a little more time,” Shearouse said, “but they are getting there and we are getting great reports from the ones we have. Parents have been appreciative that we have them.”

The vestibules at Effingham County Middle School and Ebenezer Middle School are complete. Work remains to be done at South Effingham Middle School, South Effingham High School and Effingham College & Career Academy.

The new Rincon Elementary School was built with a vestibule. Other county elementary schools had them added.

“We did the elementary schools because we didn’t have the security officers there,” Shearouse said. “What we wanted to do was put them in the schools we didn’t have security officers in first and then we went to the middle and high schools where we do have security officers.”

The system received $105,000 from the state government to add the vestibules.