Elementary school adds security with bulletproof glass, creates unique learning space

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BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- In 2019, school systems’ priorities have changed. Van Pelt Elementary School in Bristol, Virginia is a prime example.

“Instead of having the one layer of security, we have three layers of security so if somebody accidentally gets through the first layer, they still have to get through two more layers before they can ever have access to our students or our staff,” said superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan.

Through an $85,000 state safety grant, the more than 40-year-old elementary school is going through a security overhaul, adding a vestibule for visitors to enter the school

Van Pelt Elementary School in Bristol, Va.

“We have a buzz-in system on the front door, we’ll have bulletproof glass, we’ll have a steel reinforced wall that folks will have to come into as well, said Perrigan. “Then, you will also have a second buzzer to get into the main office. Then, you’ll have to be buzzed back out of the office again to get access to the school.”

The school also added more security cameras and has started transitioning classrooms from the old open concept. The main office was also moved from the middle of the building to the front- opening more doors for student learning by creating “Bearcat Pause.”

“Bearcat Pause” classroom at Van Pelt Elementary School

“Its a short-term opportunity for students who are struggling in the classroom behaviorally or emotionally. So they can come here, they can get some strategies from our behavior specialists and our teacher.”

The program has a full-time teacher along with therapy services and an instructional aide. Its something that Perrigan says wouldn’t have been possible without the safety changes.

Van Pelt’s old main office space was turned into an alternate classroom setting.

“Our top priority as a school board and as a division is to make sure first and foremost that our schools are as safe as they can possibly be,” he says. “Once you take care of that, then you can start working on the relationships and the curriculum and the instruction, those things that are paramount to learning.”

The system at Van Pelt will be a model for other schools in the district. Dr. Perrigan says this added security will come to the middle and high schools sometime next summer.

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