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Preston Schools working to improve school safety

KINGWOOD — The risk of a school shooting is ever present. 

The recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were murdered, only reiterates the need for enhanced school safety measures in his mind, incoming Preston County Schools Superintendent Brad Martin said at a community meeting Thursday.

Thankfully, the school system is blessed with a good relationship with the Preston County Sheriff’s Office, which provides a full-time school resource officer at Preston High School. Martin said that relationship has been in place since the 2019-20 school year and is paid for using excess levy funds.

At the most recent Board of Education meeting, board members unanimously voted in favor of renewing the contract for the coming year. 

Martin told The Dominion Post they were fortunate to work with Deputy Mark Lewis, who works extremely well with the staff and faculty. He also has a good relationship with students. 

“The first year, the students really didn’t want to open up to me, or they looked at me as a police officer. And some of them were afraid to approach me,” Lewis said. “Since then, I mean, like I said, I built a pretty good rapport with most of them. They’re willing to sit down, give me information. And they know that I’m fair.”

Martin said he would love to have an officer at every school but realistically, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have that kind of manpower, even if the money was there. Should state or federal funding come available, he’s willing to look at creative solutions like retired officers, veterans or private security.

Another safety measure is the active search for a safety and emergency preparedness director, Martin said. Interviews have been conducted, with more to come this week, and a recommendation to the board should happen at its June 27 meeting. 

That position will work with school administrators and safety staff at each school as well as the central office to develop and implement plans, Martin said. They will have to be conscious of the district’s monetary limitations and implement cost efficient measures.

“That’s going to be the primary task of that individual, is just to be sure that our schools are as well prepared as possible to deal with any type of contingency that may come up as it relates to school safety,” Martin said.

In other school safety steps, the School Building Authority announced last week that it would give nearly $300,000 to help create a fully secure and renovated entryway at PHS, Martin said.

There was also a discussion at the most recent BOE meeting about improving the security and safety of doors in other schools in the county.

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