Back to School: Athens City schools continue to upgrade security measures

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 7:17 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Students with Athens City Schools are heading back to the classroom Tuesday morning, and the district has made some upgrades to security, launched some major construction projects, and discovered ways to address artificial intelligence.

This year, the district will introduce “Crisis Alert” badges, according to Beth Patton, Superintendent of Athens City Schools. She says the badge will allow any employee on all school campuses to call a nurse or police officer and place the school on lockdown with the touch of a button.

To better protect students, leaders have been updating school safety plans with first responders and employees at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Patton says they’ve also added hundreds of new cameras throughout the school system.

“We have an employee who will be focusing on school safety [and] will be in the schools every single day practicing different scenarios [with teachers],” said Patton.

Parents will receive information about “Crisis Alert” badge during the first week of school, so they can gain a better understanding of how it will work.

According to Patton, leaders have been working to expand the district to accommodate growth. Recently, they built iAcademy at Athens Elementary. They also moved students from Julian Newman to the Clinton Street Campus, so they can build a new school.

According to Patton, Athens Intermediate School, which is fourth and fifth grade, is at capacity now. She says it’s uncommon for some of the schools in the district to start the school year at capacity.

“Probably in August, we will add eight new classrooms and a new gym [to Athens Intermediate School], and of course, that will include a storm room, as well. So, that will be a great safety addition for us,” she said. “We need a new school on the east side of town, so we’re looking for land there [and] working with the city. But we have not found anything yet.”

WAFF 48 News also spoke to school district about artificial intelligence (AI). Many educators across the nation have concerns about students using artificial intelligence to cheat on assignments.

“We know that artificial intelligence is here to stay. So, we believe that the important thing is to teach students and adults how to use it effectively and correctly,” said Patton.

Patton says the school leaders obtained resources from International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and teachers will be reviewing the resources with students, so that they know how to use AI.

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