ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — As area students enjoy their final days of summer break, the Alcoa City Schools system is preparing to welcome everyone back to the classroom. But with the excitement of a new school year, some parents may also feel apprehension about sending their kids back to school following the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.

According to the school, administrators understand parents’ concerns in light of the growing number of school shootings. The school said it is working to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

“Obviously, academics is very important to us but the very first most important thing to us is to keep our kids and our staff safe at all times,” Director of Schools Rebecca Stone said. “We do want to put tools in the hands of our teachers and in the hands of our students and the hands of our parents if something does happen like that, god forbid, that we are as equipped as we could be.”

The school system is made up of four campuses, all of which employ various safety measures.

“All of them you have to buzz in,” Stone explained. “We have SROS’s [School Resource Officers] in all of our buildings, our SRO’s are constant about our doors, checking our doors, making sure doors are locked and things like that.”

Visitors are required to use buzzers with built-in cameras
in order to enter school buildings

These are just some of the more visible safety measures. One of the schools’ greatest defenses lies with its teachers.

“Training at the beginning of our school year,” Stone told WATE. “This week while they’re [teachers] in professional development part of that professional development will be training by our school resource officers.

The training is expected to continue during the school year with drills, lockdowns and evaluations. Not to mention conversations between students and teachers.

“That training is very important at our younger ages because they don’t understand,” Stone said. “A high school student is going to be able to think in those situations not like an adult, but more adult thinking.”

Although academics remain high on the school system’s priority list, Stone said so does the safety of staff and students.

“We have teams involved to make those plans and we are constantly updating and making sure that we keep our staff and our students as safe as possible at all times.”

School leaders say it is important to stress that these are just some of the safety measures being taken at each campus. Other measures are also in place, but are kept from the public as a matter of security.

Students return to Alcoa City Schools on Monday, July 18.