Each of Bryan County’s nine schools will get security makeovers over the Christmas break.
The project, aimed at upgrading security at entrances to control who gets into school buildings, is expected to cost around $133,000, Bryan County Board of Education members learned at Thursday’s meeting.
The BoE earlier pushed construction manager Bill Vickery, who works for Pope Construction, to move as fast as possible to get the work started.
“I think that’s something we all felt we needed to get the ball rolling on as soon as possible,” said BoE member Paine Bacon after hearing work would start over the holiday break. “The safety of our children needs to come first.”
The issue was first raised publicly at the BoE’s September work session, when Vickery gave members some estimates on what it would take to upgrade school entrances.
Initially, the BoE looked at doing the schools piecemeal but broadened the scope to include all of them at once after members decided the schools all need to be made safer.
In a nutshell, the work to beef up security means adding electronic keyless access control systems controlled by school employees and more secure entryways at each school while limiting entry to the main entrance.
But because the schools were designed and built differently, the projects won’t be carbon copies of one another. And they’ll take some getting used to as routines change at schools where students enter and leave the buildings on their way to and from lunch and to outside classrooms.
Vickery showed BoE members photos and sketches of the main entrance areas to each of the schools to give them an idea of how the security access portals will look.
He also cautioned administrators at the BoE meeting to remember things will be different once the new security entrances are in place.
“Everybody is going to have to realize there is a learning curve and it is a new platform you’re going to have to get used to,” Vickery said.
Raises in future?
The school board’s classified employees — those who work in lunchrooms and drive buses, as well as the system’s maintenance and custodial personnel — became the topic of a conversation at Thursday’s meeting when BoE member Dennis Seger brought up raises.
School officials are currently working on a study on how the system pays its 800-plus employees.
That study is due in January and will include a look at coaching supplements, Brooksher said.
But Seger was more concerned Thursday about those who work behind the scenes.
“I know what we pay teachers, and those employees are state-mandated,” he said. “But we lost an outstanding maintenance person because we are behind when it comes to maintenance pay. It’s the same thing with custodians and the same thing with kitchen pay.”
Seger said he wants to see the system’s classified employees get raises of at least $1 per hour.
“To me, if you give a nickel or a dime raise, that’s a slap in the face,” he said.
School board Chairman Eddie Warren said he also wanted to get numbers in time for the BoE to reflect on where the system was at regarding pay.
“I think Dennis’ concerns are about the same as mine,” Warren said. “There needs to be time to digest all this. You guys are going to study it and put it all together and bring it to the board and tell us, ‘Here’s what we think.’ We need time as a board to look at that and tell you what we think.”
Brooksher said classified workers “are critical to the system. They do great work,” noting bus driver pay in Bryan County is equal to or better than a number of districts in the area.
But he promised Seger information on salary scales by the board’s work session in January.
Bryan County Schools is the county’s largest employer, according to the Development Authority of Bryan County website. The second-biggest employer is county government, with 328 employees.