At around 7:30 a.m. outside the front entrance of Pikeville Elementary School, Pikeville Police Chief Chris Edmonds joined Principal Robert Jones and Assistant Principal Greg Stone during the school’s daily morning drop-off routine, which school officials described as a “well-oiled machine.” The school building opens for students at 7:20 a.m.
Edmonds stood in front of one line of cars and directed morning traffic with the principals, assisting many students as they exited the vehicles, and he welcomed them with a smile as they entered the school.
For years, the Pikeville Police department has provided about two officers each to Pikeville Elementary School and Pikeville High School at the beginning and end of school days in order to help direct traffic and provide a presence at the schools. The officers also complete rounds inside the schools at various times during the day.
The Pikeville Police’s school presence is one of the Pikeville Independent School District’s school safety measures that they are continuing this year.
Edmonds said he usually helps more with Pikeville Elementary School because of the higher volume of parents dropping off and picking up their children. On average, there are about 300 students who are dropped off at the school between 7:20 a.m. and 8 a.m., according to Jones.
Edmonds said that he interacts with the young students in the mornings “all the time.”
“We’ve got all kinds of kids who stop and give us things in the morning,” Edmonds said. “There have been a lot of parents scared and stuff about the safety of their kids at school, which is so unfortunate that things like that happen. We know that a person’s biggest wealth is their child. If we can help protect those kids in any way possible, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Pikeville Superintendent Jerry Green said that other safety measures include security cameras in the schools and school buses, locks on all classroom doors and entrances, additional lighting inside and outside the school buildings and safety glass installed in the school buildings.
“It’s amazing the lengths we’ve gone to for safety within the schools and inside of the school buses,” Green said.
Jami Tackett, of Pikeville, is the mother of two students at Pikeville Elementary School. She said she transferred her son and daughter to the school a few years earlier, and the presence of the Pikeville Police helps to reassure her of a safe environment when she drops her children off in the mornings.
“It’s definitely reassuring to me as a mother to see them out there,” Tackett said. “My kids have never told me that they don’t feel safe at school.”
The Pike County Schools District has also worked to increase its school safety measures. Some of the measures include providing security cameras in its 18 schools and half of its 200 school buses, as well as conducting drug tests on all high school students who participate in extracurricular activities. Superintendent Reed Adkins said that the drug-testing is a “great deterrent” that aims to combat drug use in the schools and provide a safe environment for students.
In the past two years, the schools district hired school resource officers for its five high schools, Belfry High School, East Ridge High School, Phelps High School, Pike County Central High School and Shelby Valley High School. Adkins said that the Pike County Sheriff’s Department shouldered the cost of providing the SROs during the first year, totaling about $180,000, and the schools district received a Title IV grant the following year to help pay for them. The SROs are stationed in each of the five high schools, and they periodically visit and monitor the district’s middle schools and 12 elementary schools.
Adkins said that the SROs have helped with shortening the police’s response time, which used to be longer due to the size of the county and the schools district. Pike County reaches a total area of 789 square miles, making it the largest of Kentucky’s 120 counties by area.
“The response time for deputies to get to a school in the event of an emergency is definitely one of our biggest challenges,” Adkins said. “Having a school resource officer in every school really changes the game on that.”
All employees in the Pike County Schools District received active shooter training, Adkins said, and all of the outside doors are locked. To enter any school in the district, Adkins said, a visitor must use a buzzer system and check in with the front office at each school.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to make our schools safe for our students,” Adkins said.