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Eastern Panhandle schools focusing on safety

August 25, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

EASTERN PANHANDLE, W.Va. -- Safety will be a focus as public schools open in Berkeley and Jefferson counties Tuesday.

Parents and students returning to Berkeley County Schools this week will see the start of a new access system designed to beef up security, and in Jefferson County, police said they will be aggressively patrolling around the new Washington High School to control speeding there.

In Berkeley County, work continues on constructing vestibules at the entrances to the school district's 29 buildings, according to schools spokeswoman Jaimee Borger.

Before entering a school, visitors will be required to enter the vestibule, where school officials will check for proper identification and verify that visitors have a valid reason to enter the school, Borger said.

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Many vestibules are in place and work is continuing on the others, Borger said Sunday.

The new Washington High School in Jefferson County is at the intersection of Augustine Avenue and the Charles Town Bypass, and the area is a "natural drag strip," said Charles Town Police Chief Barry Subelsky.

The speed limit on the bypass is 60 mph and the speed limit on Augustine Avenue reaches as high as 55 mph, police said.

Subelsky said he thinks consideration should be given to reducing some speed limits around the school, which will serve more than 1,000 students.

A new traffic light has been installed on the bypass and has been flashing to make motorists aware of it, Subelsky said.

After a little more than three years of construction, the new $40 million high school will open to students Tuesday and provide relief to overcrowding at Jefferson High School, which has been the county's sole high school since 1972.

Administrators and workers have been preparing up until the last minute getting textbooks to the school and working on sports practice fields.

School officials in both counties also announced that they will continue using the AmberView system this year to help protect children from being abducted.

Through AmberView, authorities can send out a picture of a missing or abducted child to police, news media and the public across the country within minutes.

Fast response is vital, given that a child is reported missing every 40 seconds and the passage of time is the child's greatest enemy, school officials said.

With parental consent, a child's image for the system is captured every year on school picture day.

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