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Rain showers along with windy conditions. High 83F. Winds ESE at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 60%..
Overcast with rain showers at times. Low 78F. Winds ESE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Updated: July 2, 2022 @ 9:51 am

After the recent mass shooting in Texas at Robb Elementary, where 19 students and two school employees were killed, the V.I. Department of Education has decided to conduct annual campus tours to identify and address potential security weaknesses.
According to a release issued Wednesday, campus tours have only ever been conducted for maintenance and environmental issues, but the department’s Division of Disaster Planning and School Security has organized the series of school tours with “first-responding agencies to assess the safety and security of the Territory’s public-school campuses in the event of an emergency, crisis, or threat.”
V.I. Fire Service, V.I. Police Department, V.I. Rescue, Emergency Medical Services, and the department’s facilities division are all participating in the tours. The St. Thomas-St. John District tours were completed June 24 and the St. Croix District tours were completed Thursday. The security assessment findings will be shared with the public.
“We realized that we have different issues when it comes to security and safety of students and staff within our schools,” the department’s Chief Operations Officer Dionne Wells-Hedrington stated in the release.
“We participated in the LSU Active Threat training earlier this month and decided to coordinate walkthroughs of every school with the necessary external partners to ensure that when we develop and update our school crisis management plans with the input of the Fire Service, VIPD, Rescue and EMS, we would be right on target of where we need to be. When we move forward with making sure our schools are where they are supposed to be with crisis plans updated, personnel trained and drills conducted, we would feel comfortable knowing that our campuses are secure and would know what to do in the event of an emergency,” Wells-Hedrington added.
According to St. Croix Fire Marshal Henry Joseph, the focus areas during the walkthroughs will be exits, fencing, security of windows and doors, and the establishment of safe zones.
Joseph said safe and correct use of egress or exits will be checked, including panic bars and doors with locks that offer key access on the outside but a latch on the inside.
“We are also looking at secured windows and doors—those that are not easily kicked in or penetrated,” Joseph said. “Fencing should be high enough where people from the outside cannot climb over to vandalize the buildings or create havoc in the schools,” suggesting fences be at least eight to ten feet high.
“Our winds generally flow from east to the west and if there is a fire, most times, smoke travels to the west,” Joseph said. “So, your safe zone is best located up-wind. Plus, ensure the area is large enough to hold everyone.”
St. Croix Rescue Chief Gregory Richards focused on separate areas, the release states he focused on determining proper access for emergency vehicles and the adequacy of first aid kits.
“The things we are concerned with are easy access for ambulances, rescue and fire apparatuses onto campuses, and also the beefing up of campus medical stations,” Richards said. “Most schools have an automatic external defibrillator onsite, but you should also have first aid kits immediately available and strategically positioned, so if something were to happen, school personnel can immediately begin taking care of the wounded prior to the arrival of ambulances or medical personnel.”
Richards said not only would he like to see first aid kits more prominently throughout the schools, but it was a necessity the schools have bleeding control kits onsite.
“The recent history of the incidents at schools should guide us of the possibility of the things that we might encounter at our schools here,” Richards said. “You definitely want to have a bleeding control kit, along with the first aid medical bag and the AED. The AED signage has been encouraging, so we just have to take it up a notch. I like to know that the children are safe.”
Police Sgt. Charles Orange, the commander of school security and youth investigation bureau, agreed some adjustments could be made but said, “It is good they are going to take measures to further ensure the safety of the campuses, including installing camera systems, which can help a lot.”
Federal funds received by the department to supplement teaching and learning during the pandemic will be used to fund the security upgrades, Wells-Hedrington said, and discussions with the district superintendents have taken place regarding ARPA funds, “so money has been set aside in both districts to address these safety concerns.” She added, the division is also working on a Request for Proposal to purchase intercom systems for schools that lack them.
“We will be sending a template to school principals so that they can provide us with the number of indoor and outdoor intercoms they need, as well as look at the layout of the schools to identify where cameras should be strategically installed,” Wells-Hedrington said. “We don’t want to wait until something happens on one of our campuses to make these important changes.”

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