By Ann Hill-Bond
As Clayton County students returned to school on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, the administration has not forgotten the tragedy of The Uvalde Massacre that has changed school safety nationally.
Teachers greet their students as parents walk their children in the school building across the district and face the unwavering concern of returning home safely. Many precautions are implemented in Clayton County. One program, “The Village on Patrol,” is set to be a progressive way to engage families across the district.
According to Shakira Brown Rice, Clayton County Public Schools Director of community & employee engagement, the Village on Patrol program is an integrated approach to enhancing school safety. “We are very excited about the launch of this initiative,” Rice, a former CCPS principal, said during the first open house for the program Tuesday, July 26. The listening and questions session was held at Jonesboro High School, and dozens of parents and county educators attended it. “When schools succeed, communities succeed,” Rice said.
Clayton County Public Schools proposes five to six parent volunteers at each county’s sixty-six schools, along with the 2021-2022 clear back bags policy. Clayton County Public School Administrators feel The Village on Patrol program is a movement for the district, especially with the current uptick in guns and weapons on Clayton County campuses.
Clayton County Police Department Sgt. Derek McClendon, also in attendance at The Village On Patrol (VOP) program informational meeting, addressed the crowd about safety precautions and the responsibilities of volunteering for the program. A 29-year law enforcement veteran, McClendon, said of the initial turnout, “It helps us out because teachers have to teach, and we can’t be everywhere in the school, so now we have an extra set of eyes.”
The extra set of adult eyes throughout the schools will help the school establish a village tone that the program is named after, Rice said. “When you’re working with children in the school setting, relationships are so significant,” she said. Parent-volunteers will report to the school principal and be asked to assist schools in several ways, including field trips, hallway and recess monitors, and during arrival and dismissals.
The program will not replace the school safety officers and is free to participate; parents and guardians must complete preliminary paperwork and a level three background check. Additionally, volunteers must also be at least 21 years old. The same safety training conducted by the Department of Safety and Security guards will also be given to the Patrol parent-volunteers. Upon finishing training, each participant will report to their assigned school with a program T-shirt and badge with a help button that they can press if needed.
Clayton County Public Schools are still accepting applications for Village Patrol volunteers; and will host more informational sessions in the coming weeks. For more details, please contact Ms. Shakira Rice via email at shakira.rice@clayton.K12.ga.us.
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