CIRCLEVILLE — Pickaway County Schools have stepped up security with a soon to be operational system to put emergency services on speed dial.
The system called SchoolGuard Program, allows any approved person within the school district to have an app on their Smartphone that with the press of a button will alert any nearby law enforcement officer, on or off duty and any agency, of a potential threat or danger in the school that is within a certain radius.
“Since taking office, my administration has worked with all of the county public school districts to add school resources officers, SchoolGuard is an additional layer of safety and protection for our students and school staff that will compliment our existing school resource officers and active shooter response programs,” Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff stated.
Radcliff said the program is one of the first ones in the state and that Pickaway County is the only county with a countywide system that includes all public and private school districts. The goal of the app is to have more officers, both on and off duty, respond to the threat quicker in a time when seconds matter. The system will go live on Jan. 13.
Public funds were used to fund the initial investment in the system at a cost of $750 per school at a total cost of $14,250 to cover all public schools in the county. New Hope Christian Academy and Crossroads Christian Academy were not funded through any public funding. Each district is responsible for its own monthly fees.
“The Pickaway County Board of Commissioners is very proud of the work done by Sheriff Radcliff, his staff and our local school officials to take school safety in our community to the next level,” Brian Stewart, Pickaway County Commissioner said. “We have been glad to work with Sheriff Radcliff in completing a number of projects to increase public safety in Pickaway County and it’s a testament to his leadership that Pickaway County will not only be the first county in Ohio to utilize SchoolGuard, but that we will do so with the participation of all our public school districts from day one.”
Ty Ankrom, superintendent of the Pickaway County Educational Service Center, said this is just another example of the districts working together on something for the betterment of the students and the community.
“Curriculum-wise they do quite a bit together, implementing different initiatives or programs,” Ankrom remarked. “Our schools work really well together. They share and collaborate. They maybe don’t always do the exact very same thing but have made things better by working together.”
Ankrom said the SchoolGuard program is a significant upgrade for staff, students and the community.
“Sheriff Radcliff has demonstrated his genuine concern for school security through past and current services,” Ankrom continued. “By introducing us to SchoolGuard and covering almost all of the cost for its countywide implementation,
Pickaway County will be a safer place for our children, grandchildren and neighbors to go to school.”
Radcliff said he received nearly immediate buy-in after presenting to the local schools. Robin Halley, superintendent of Teays Valley told him they were in before he even left the room.
“It’s always been a concern and if you talk to any staff member it causes a lot of anxiety and this brings a sense of control and an ability to intervene quickly and it puts it in their hands,” Halley said. “Our board has been very committed to any safety issues or concerns. We built the safety entrance this last year and put a lot of money into that. This was a drop in the bucket as far as a security measure and make the quickly response in the hands of the people that need it.
“Not only does it make our school safer but I think it helps the staff coming in everyday to know they can do something in a situation,” he added. “I think it helps all the way around. The fact that it alerts everyone all at once is exactly the kind of thing we need here because we cover so many square miles.”
Radcliff said partnerships with the other departments, especially in the Teays Valley District, which has schools in three different jurisdictions, is important.
“Whenever we’ve had an incident in one of those schools we’ve made sure we’ve had those partners with us and that’s what the school district wants, what we want and we’ve had 100 percent buy-in from those chiefs,” Radcliff commented. “It’s a true partnership to work together and keep our schools safe.”
In addition to the alerting features, the app also gives school staff a platform for communicating among the building or district.
Kyle Uhrig, assistant superintendent at Circleville City Schools, said the SchoolGuard program is a great thing for the districts and the county.
“It gives us an extra layer of protection and another opportunity to keep students and staff safe with the touch of one button to make an all-call to 911 and any police officer that has this app,” Uhrig said. “It doesn’t have to be a worse case scenario to pursue it. We’ve been talking to our staff members and we’ll finish that up [Friday].”
Uhrig said Circleville decided to give the app to all district personnel including the cooks, support staff and drivers.
“All 260-plus employees will have this on their phone and have the ability to push the button,” Uhrig added.
Jeff Sheets, superintendent of Westfall Local School District, said he likes that the system takes advantage of all resources available and helps coordinate all local agencies in the event of an emergency.
“We’re in a day and age where student safety is our top priority,” Sheets told The Circleville Herald. “When Sheriff Radcliff approached us with this, we were impressed by his enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of all districts in Pickaway County. We will always explore new methods to improve safety for our students.”
Tim Williams, superintendent of Logan Elm Local Schools, said the district is always looking to improve security.
“SchoolGuard is another resource along with our resource officer and safety drills to ensure we are taking all measures to ensure our students are safe while at school,” Williams commented. “From talking with the Sheriff, SchoolGuard improves response time for authorities which is critical in times when an emergency is occurring.”
Leaders at the state level applauded the Sheriff’s Office and the schools for getting this program set up.
“This looks like a great common-sense tool to help with school security,” Gary Scherer, state representative for District 92, said. “Hopefully with success here in Pickaway County, this system can help other communities across the state.”
“By leveraging technology, law enforcement can develop new tools and capabilities that keep our communities safe,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “I commend Sheriff Radcliff for his innovative leadership protecting our students.”
For more information on the SchoolGuard program, visit the website at www.schoolguard.com.