Lee County schools’ safety director discusses upcoming school year

Protecting the children is at the top of our minds as we send our kids back to the classroom next month.

So how will safety be handled on top of dealing with the pandemic? WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko sat down with the School District of Lee County’s director of safety and security to find out.

Rick Parfitt arrived in Lee County in 2018 with plans, but like everything else, the pandemic’s forced him to change them up.

We asked Parfitt when kids finally go back to school, how different will it look?

“I am hoping not a whole lot. They will likely see staff wearing masks upon arrival and things like that. They’re going to see signs and posters on washing your hands, social distancing,” Parfitt said.

Without the kids in school the last few months, Parfitt accelerated some of his planned improvements.

“It’s helped in some ways where contractors can speed up certain things like cameras and card access control systems,” Parfitt said.

But there are new challenges, starting with student mental health issues.

“Well, I think that obviously you see that it has caused a lot of people to be on edge. But there are going to be issues with possible conduct, with counseling, with mental health folks that may have a greater role in dealing with the problems,” Parfitt said.

And there are still threats, so the threat assessment team has to be on top of its game, often meeting virtually to address threats that may come from a virtual classroom.

“If they have a concern, they can do that, meet virtually, whether it’s emails, social media posts, things that are said in a virtual classroom, things like that,” Parfitt said.

Another change he mentioned is that visitors to campus are doubtful.

“Visitors, for whatever reason, should be limited to keep people out of our buildings that don’t really need to be there,” Parfitt said.

If masks are required, will the school resource officers have to act as the mask police?

“They’re not going to be able to enforce our internal policies or procedures, but they may offer guidance,” Parfitt said.

Is Parfitt’s team ready to take on the challenges?”

“We are. There are going to be some changes,” Parfitt said.

For more information about the effort to get kids back in school, visit the Back To School tab on the WINK News website here.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
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