The Oconee County school system has implemented a new safety measure, the Centegix alert system, amping up security in elementary, middle and high schools. All employees are provided a badge, and at the press of a button, local law enforcement is alerted in cases of emergency.
Capt. James Hale of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, a parent of four with two in Oconee County schools, is committed to keeping his and others’ children safe.
“I’m pretty vested in the idea of school security and safety and really hope that the big message out there is that we do care about our kids in school,” Hale said. “And we do care about their safety and that we also have kids in the school system that we want to be protected.”
The new system is intended to reduce response time by bypassing 911 calls, directly alerting local law enforcement. Each officer has the Centegix app on their phone, and once alerted, they can see a map of the school.
“It’s a sign of the times unfortunately, but anything we can do to minimize the time it takes to us to be notified of an incident and then to respond to that incident is a great help in what we do,” Hale said.
After an employee presses the button on the badge, beacon lights will flash, and an intercom message will sound: “Lockdown. Avoid, deny, defend.”
Gail Tarver, parent of a first- and fifth-grader at Colham Ferry Elementary School, is impressed with the new system.
“It’s kind of like being prepared for a storm or if you’re wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bike,” Tarver said. “There’s gonna be some problems sometimes, so rather than just pushing it under the rug and not dealing with it, they’re dealing with it.”
Watkinsville City Councilman Dan Matthews approves of the new approach as well.
“An incident like we’re hopefully never gonna have is not gonna wait for some kind of notice or alarm,” Matthews said. “It’s gonna happen when you least expect it.”
Ashley Soriano is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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