DOBSON — Local schools had pop quizzes this week, but this time it was the school staff and not the students being tested.
On Thursday, officers with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office conducted lockdown drills at several elementary and middle schools in the Surry County Schools district.
This was a safety idea started under Sheriff Graham Atkinson and Chief Deputy Jimmy Combs a few years ago, and now as sheriff Combs is keeping the program going.
This is a little late in the school year to be starting the drills, Combs said. But, he wanted to wait until after the semester exams in January. Then the school shooting on Feb. 14 had a lot of parents rightly upset, so he chose to hold off rather than stressing students and teachers alike so soon after the tragedy.
A month after the Florida shootings, the Sheriff’s Office initiated the drills, which are random and unannounced to the school staff.
Even though school personnel are trained in lockdown procedures, these surprise drills help the Sheriff’s Office evaluate how they will react when a real lockdown occurs, explained Combs. In addition, the lockdown drills provide realistic training for his own officers. He believes the drills create a safer school environment and better prepared staff and students.
“School lockdowns are just one tool we use to help ensure the safety of our students, which is the highest priority of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with Surry County Schools,” Sheriff Jimmy Combs said.
The sheriff’s Patrol Division conducts random walk-through security checks throughout the county school system. First up were some grade schools in the county.
“We have recently concentrated those security checks at schools which do not have a school resource officer,” said Combs. The high schools and middle schools all have security officers on campus.
”We have asked the surrounding law enforcement agencies, with whom we normally work, to concentrate on those schools located inside their jurisdictions,” he continued.
“Officers with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office are trained in response to situations at schools like an active shooter,” Combs said. “This is essential in a real situation because any officer from any agency that responds is prepared to accomplish the same mission which is keeping our children safe.”
Each of the schools that participated in the lockdown drills Thursday performed to the highest standard, the sheriff noted. Everyone did exactly as they had been trained. He said he has been a part of this lockdown program since the beginning.
“I am amazed at the level of improvement each year and very proud of the seriousness with which the school staff and students take these drills.”
He said, “This is the result of the outstanding partnership and cooperation with the Surry County Board of Education, Surry County Board of Commissioners, Dr. Travis Reeves, and the staff and students of Surry County Schools.”
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.