School district to install in-classroom safe rooms

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 5:54 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2023 at 6:15 PM CDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - Students walking into their classrooms at the Lawrence County School District in Walnut Ridge will see an extra hedge of protection next school year.

LCSD will install in-classroom safe rooms if an active shooter or severe weather situation occurs.

The in-classroom safe rooms are a new concept to schools in the state, as only a handful have installed them.

“Couple of schools in Arkansas have this, and we went and visited Quitman. They put in a steel barrier in the classroom to protect their students during a potential tornado and potential active shooter,” Terry Belcher, Lawrence County School District superintendent explained.

The rooms have features like ventilation and lights to keep students comfortable if something happens.

“There is air in there. There’s a light in there. They’re not meant to be in there for hours,” Belcher said.”Just the time a tornado can get through here and out and protect the students in case of an intruder in the building.”

Only kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms will have the units installed, costing the school nearly $1 million.

“When we had our millage about three or four years ago, one of the things we put in there was if we had enough finances, we would do some type of safety room for our children. We now have enough finances to get started putting these in the classrooms.”

These rooms not only add safety for students in the classroom but also peace of mind to parents.

Middle School Teacher and Parent Travel Fleming explained the safe rooms are something he’s glad to see.

“Safe rooms in the classrooms is going to be a great thing,” Fleming stated. “Kids will be safe in a matter of seconds rather than minutes walking to another building. If anything were to happen, they’re right there available, and that’s a really great thing.”

Fleming’s son is a fifth grader at Walnut Ridge. He said he trusts the school’s ability to keep his child safe, but it does ease his mind knowing extra precautions are being taken.

“Even though he’s right there with me, I don’t have to worry about him. He’s in another classroom, I know if anything were to happen, he’s safe,” Fleming said. “I’m with my kids in class, and they’re safe.”

Superintendent Belcher expects the units to be installed and ready for the 2023-24 school year.