BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Anyone -- even a parent -- wishing to visit a Greene County school would need an appointment or an invitation in order to make it past the school office, if a policy revision recommended by the county school system's Policy Committee receives County Board of Education approval.
The policy change was recommended unanimously by the Policy Committee at a meeting on Wednesday.
The full county school board will consider the policy change on first reading in January.
The change came as a recommendation by the school system's administrative Safety Committee.
The committee was organized earlier in the year during a time when schools across the nation were responding to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
The committee's recommendation would make the following addition to the county school system's current Safety policy:
"For student safety and to preserve the learning environment, school visitors must have an appointment or have an invitation in order to be permitted into the main building.
"Open-invitation events shall take place as scheduled by each school."
This language would be added to the current policy, which states:
"Only students assigned to the school, the staff of the school, parents of students, and other persons with lawful and valid business on the school premises shall enter onto the grounds or into the buildings of the schools during the hours of student instruction. All staff members shall report all persons appearing to be improperly on school premises to the principal."
During discussion, the Policy Committee clarified that such a policy was not intended to block entry into the schools' main offices, nor is it intended to apply to school officials, such as members of the school board.
Board member Kathy Austin said such policies must treat everyone the same. If one person has to show a photo ID, then even the best friend of the person checking IDs should have to show one, she said.
The committee agreed that equal treatment is necessary and that, in all cases, visitors -- including board members -- should be signing in at the main office of any school that he or she visited.
However, Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk said that requesting an ID is only necessary if the person checking IDs does not recognize the visitor.
Assistant Director of Schools Bill Ripley, who served on the Safety Committee, explained that the committee sought consistency for the schools.
"We wanted principals to have cover -- permission, if you will-- to restrict movement into the building at any whim a parent might have. We wanted it to be a little more organized.
"We have a lot of parents who come to the school, and they want to go where they want to go, right then. They've not told anybody, don't have an appointment."
"They might be angry and wanting to get in [...] and that's not good for anybody," Kirk agreed.
OTHER POLICY CHANGES
The committee unanimously approved the recommendation to the board, in addition to approving the following:
* an "extensive rewrite" of the Graduation Requirements policy to update the formal policy to match the school system's actual practice in matching state requirements for ACT scores necessary for graduating with honors, and requirements set by the state Board of Education four years ago regarding special-education graduations;
* striking language from the Student Insurance Program policy that allows a student to play athletics without any proof of insurance if the student's parent is willing to sign acceptance of all financial responsibility. This change would prevent a student from participating in athletics without proof of health insurance.
* creating a Traffic and Parking Controls form and a Crisis Team form for principals to submit annually to Central Office; and,
* making editorial changes to various policies.