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Tuesday May 26th, 2015 1:52AM

Safety remains 'priority one' for Hall school officials

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - In the midst of discussing a plan for universal school choice, a new format for SAT preparation and the latest draft of the school calendar for the upcoming year, the topic that remains top of mind for Hall County school board members is the safety of students and teachers.

With the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Newtown, CT still fresh on their minds, board members asked Superitendent Will Schofield about measures that have been taken in the two weeks Hall County schools have been back in session since the Christmas break.

Schofield reiterated that his office worked closely with Hall County law enforcement over the two-week break to review all safety procedures that were already in place. He noted that each school had been scoured to make sure that even the smallest safety mechanisms (peepholes in doors, for example) were operational. Schofield also noted that school safety coordinators at every elementary, middle and high school participated in their very first safety webinar last week.

System Resource Office Earl Roach told the board that the additional patrols provided by Hall County Sheriff's deputies are something that he wants to see on a permanent basis.

"It's actually worked great," said Roach. "We've increased our extra patrols at all 33 schools, especially our elementary schools. The presence of an officer stopping by [at unscheduled times] we're hoping that deters any crime."

BOARD APPROVES FY '14 CALENDAR

Students will start back to school on August 12, 2013 for the upcoming school year, according to a calendar approved by school board members at their Monday evening work session. The calendar, as it now stands, includes 174 instructional days for students and 180 days for teachers. If the budget allows, there is room to reinstate days to the calendar.

Superintendent Schofield said it would be March before budget numbers would be available for the board to discuss the possibility of any additional school days on the calendar for the coming year.

UNIVERSAL CHOICE COMMITTEE TO MEET THIS MONTH

Schofield told board members he is finalizing the make-up of a committee that will evaluate a school choice policy for the Hall County School District.

Committee members will meet for the first time later this month to set up parameters for a system that would allow parents to enroll students in a school of choice regardless of where the student lives.

MORRIS RE-ELECTED BOARD CHAIR

Board members re-elected Nath Morris as the chairman for the Hall County School Board and Craig Herrington as vice-chair for the board. Both men were sworn in to office for another term prior to Monday's work session. Hall County Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller conducted the swearing in ceremony.

Also, the board voted to extend Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield's contract for three years. Final approval of the contract comes up at the board's next meeting.

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