Dear Northwest High School Community,

I don't normally use this column to encourage political action, but today I have an appeal for our Northwest High School community. Two important matters will soon be up for consideration and discussion by our elected county officials. I want to give you some information and ask you to contact your county officials to ask for their support.  

In light of the recent school shootings in Florida (and more recently in Texas), we've become more aware of the need to improve the safety and security at our school. In response, our School Based Leadership Team (SBLT) formed a committee of parents and teachers to discuss safety and determine what improvements could be made at Northwest. Through these meetings, we spoke with our School Board Representative, Pat Tillman and with the Director of Security for the school system, Chris Nowlin. We learned there were projects in the works at the county level and they may help us here at Northwest.  

We can expect a front door security camera control access system to be installed at the main front doors at Northwest before the end of June. This expense has been funded and the work will be done ASAP. The system will control entry to the main building only at the front doors by using a doorbell with a camera to ask visitors to identify themselves before entering the school. Although this is a step in the right direction, it doesn't address the need to secure other entrances or the other buildings on campus. While researching this issue, we wondered if we parents could raise the additional funds needed to purchase additional security for these other doors. It would cost about $3,000 per additional access point to install access control locks. At a school like Northwest with multiple buildings and doors, this would require us to raise possibly $75,000 - $100,000.

As we were trying to determine what remedies we could fund ourselves, we learned Guilford County Schools has asked the county commissioners to fund an additional $4.9 million Security Capital Request. I've had confirmation from GCS that this additional funding would provide for access control via fob access at all other doorways including the other classroom buildings. The doors would be unlocked during regular class change times so students can enter and locked at all other times. Approval of these funds would not move us to the front of the line of schools receiving these upgrades but we could be assured over time, security features would be installed to make our campus more safe.  

The poor condition of our aging buildings and mobiles is another significant concern for our Northwest community. While we have been delving into the security concerns, we have been repeatedly made aware that the Board of Education and the County Commissioners have jointly undertaken a facilities' needs assessment for all schools. I'm told their review of Northwest was extensive and will likely include the detail we'd hope will demonstrate an obvious need for better facilities. Sadly, all of this became more relevant when the recent storm destroyed 3 Greensboro schools. This should help to focus attention on removing our "temporary" 20 year old mobile classrooms. While we do not yet know the findings of this needs assessment, we hope it will demonstrate a need to provide additional brick and mortar buildings and make better repair of our existing buildings. One thing is certain, this assessment was a costly undertaking so it is likely the findings will not be easily disregarded.  

What am I asking of you? First, this $4.9 million Security Capital Request is being considered by the Guilford County Commissioners now. I believe they will vote on the measure at their next meeting on 7 June. You can find your county commissioner's contact information 
by clicking here.  Please contact them and the at large member to ask them to support the GCS Security Capital Request now under consideration. At the same time, you may want to put in an appeal about the conditions at Northwest. Citing specific examples will add weight to your appeal. We are the largest high school by enrollment. That fact alone should be worthy of attention. Second, it is also appropriate to contact the Board of Education to let them know your concerns about the need for better security measures and facilities improvements at Northwest. When the funding is approved, we want to keep Northwest in a priority position for upgrades. While Mr. Tillman represents our district, many of the other members of the board are also friends and supporters of Northwest. The Board of Education does not make the funding decisions but it's good for them to know there is a concern at Northwest and that we hope for action resulting from the needs assessment.  

Contacting these representatives by email is just one suggestion. You can appear at meetings where public comments are permitted. If you want to learn more about any of these matters, please do some research watching past meetings of the County Commissioners and the Board of Education online.  

Thanks for your continued support!  

Kelly Parsons