WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Board of Education recently appointed two of its members to serve on the district crisis planning and response committee.
The board voted to appoint board vice president James Baisden and new member Amy Hannah to the team.
Baisden previously shared concerns after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead, with 17 others injured at Robb Elementary School.
“I’ve actually been talking to the sheriff’s office,” Baisden said. “After this deal in Texas, I got really nervous. I called him up and asked if he had ideas, and he said sure.”
Baisden said the incident there can be a learning experience across the nation, and that for Mingo he wants to make sure the schools are as secure as possible so staff are aware who is in the building at all times and to keep out anyone meaning to do harm.
Board members said the work Baisden had already done with being in contact with local law enforcement made him a clear choice for the team.
Superintendent Johnny Branch said the crisis team will involve local law enforcement, emergency management and other safety personnel to ensure protocols are in place in case of an emergency.
Branch said previously the system has also applied for grant funding to address safety concerns with the entrance at Tug Valley High School. The county also receives grants for the PRO officer program to have officers stationed at both of the county’s high schools.
This was discussed more in depth during the board’s meeting July 19.
“We all saw what happened in Texas a couple month ago,” said Rodney McCoy from the finance department. “We can’t have that mindset that it can’t happen here because it can. That mindset is out the door, and we have to be a little more proactive in what we do and how we respond to things.”
Branch said safety will be a major focus on the first day of the upcoming principal summit in August to prepare for the new school year.
“We want to try to prioritize when we want to get our drills done, what are the safety issues that we have that we need to involve the crisis planning team,” Branch said. “We’re going to do a safety summit for the first part of the day Monday.”
McCoy said he was providing the report for Maintenance Director William Hensley because Hensley was attending an ALICE training — which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
“He’s actually being certified as a trainer in that program,” McCoy said. “We’ll have two people here at the district office who are certified to give those courses.”
McCoy said after seeing what happened with Uvalde, they have also been working to evaluate each school to make them more secure.
“I don’t know if you all saw the release of the video that came out this weekend from the school, but it was troubling to watch what happened there,” McCoy said.
McCoy said these steps have included meetings with 911 to discuss giving access to the cameras in each school. These would only be accessed when an emergency is reported where 911 would need to see what’s happening inside the school to make response plans.
McCoy also said the Mingo County Emergency Management is arranging an active threat response training for next summer.
Additionally, McCoy said they are working to ensure all classroom doors have mechanisms to lock automatically when shut. Branch said the county’s newest school, Mingo Central High School, already has that type of doors.