The safety of Auburn City Schools students was discussed at this week's City Council meeting after one resident addressed the council with concerns about the glass walls in some Auburn High School classrooms.
"In light of the shooting that took place, the tragic shooting that took place in South Florida, having glass walls in schools looks like an even worse idea," said Bill Caskey, Auburn resident.
He said he reached out to ACS Superintendent Karen DeLano and Board of Education President Tracie West and was told the glass is a form of passive security that allows those in the school to have line of sight.
"Well, the shooter or evildoer has line of sight through the glass walls," Caskey said to the council. "How do you shelter in a glass room? It's impossible. I think we have a problem that's fixable before we have a tragedy, if that were to come to pass in this community ... I encourage the council to have conversations with the school board."
Councilwoman Lynda Tremaine, the former principal of Wrights Mill Road Elementary, said she understands where Caskey is coming from.
"Every year we were required to have intruder drills," she said. "Every year the procedure would change a little bit, but inevitably every year it was, 'Lock that hall door; close any windows on that door. Get those children away from sight.' It has bothered me, too.
"I know the school is beautiful, and I feel good about (the glass walls) being shatterproof, but when you see what happened in Florida, shatterproof is not going to help."
While the glass walls are shatterproof, they are not bulletproof. Councilman Tommy Dawson said he had heard the school board was looking into purchasing a something that could be put on the walls to build resistance.
ACS Public Relations Specialist Daniel Chesser said the school system is working with the Auburn Police Division to consider options.
"We are always looking for increased security in our schools, but the bottom line is that we want everyone to not only be safe, but feel safe," he said. "What that looks like at this time is to be determined as we are constantly assessing the safety of our students, staff and administration.
"We also want to be fiscally responsible with the direction we move in pertaining to this matter as to not only have the appearance of safety, but actually be safe and secure on all of our campuses."
Mayor Bill Ham Jr. said he feels that evaluating every campus would be a reasonable course of action.
"I never want to be the one that is said to be doing the school board's business, but there may be simple things that are actually problematic that need to be alleviated, whether it be doors or hardware on doors; I don't know," he said.
Dawson agreed, saying he'd like to see a third-party company come in to do the safety evaluations.
"I will not be satisfied until we have some independent source doing an evaluation of our school system, telling us what we need to do and what we don't need to do," he said. "We will not rest until our schools are evaluated and we take the steps to keep our children as safe as they possibly can be."
Dawson had previously brought this topic up at the Feb. 20 City Council meeting, saying he'd like to see a stronger police presence at every campus. He commended Caskey for addressing the council about his concerns.
"I think the more we talk about it, the more likely we are to get something done about it," Dawson said.
Public Safety Facility
Also at its meeting this week, the City Council approved a contract with Batson Cook Company in the amount of $29.19 million for the construction of the Public Safety Facility. Batson Cook Company had the lowest bid.
The bid was still higher than the initial estimated cost of construction, which was $25.87 million. According to a memo written by city engineer Alison Frazier to City Manager Jim Buston, the rise in construction costs is a result of the growth Auburn is experiencing, which puts pressure on the construction market.
"Coupled with the high level of technical complexity of this particular building, and considering the relatively tight range of the final bids, we believe that the construction costs are reasonable given the local market," she added.
To kick off the project, Fire Station No. 1 will be razed. This is expected to happen sometime in April. Then, construction will begin on the facility, which will be located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Ross Street.
The project is estimated to take about 18 months. The new facility will accommodate Fire Station No. 1, the Auburn Police Division, Auburn Fire Division, the Judicial Department and will house City Council Chambers.
During construction, Fire Station No. 1 is operating out of a temporary location on the corner of Hemlock Drive and Thach Avenue on the Auburn University campus.