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News Education Board of Education focuses on school safety at December meeting

Nantahala School recently got a new sign courtesy of an allotment from the school board and contributions from the community.The Macon County Board of Education began its December meeting by thanking members of the Nantahala community who contributed to the construction of a new school sign. After the lack of a sign was brought to the attention of the board, school board members unanimously voted to help fund the purchase of the sign. Members of the Nantahala community donated funds to the project, as well as donated their talents to the development of the rock wall that frames the sign.

“We are thankful for the community and all the work that was done to make sure Nantahala has a school sign, it looks great,” said Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove.

The sports world has been consumed with talk regarding the long-term effects that sports-related injuries such as concussions can have on athletes. From youth league to professional sports, leaders in the industry are taking a proactive approach to minimize the injuries brought on by participating in contact sports. Members of the school board approved the first reading of a concussion policy during Monday night's meeting, the first step to further protect the safety of the district's athletes.

“The things outlined in the policy are already things we are doing, but the intent of the policy is to ensure the school system is in compliance with the legislation requiring a concussion policy,” explained Breedlove.

The policy school board members are set to fully approve next month states, “The Macon County Board of Education recognizes that concussions and other head injuries may be serious and potentially life threatening and that such injuries may result in serious consequences later in life if managed improperly. The board is committed to practices that reduce the potential for shortterm or long-term effects from such injuries. In support of this commitment, the board directs school employees to comply with the concussion safety requirements for interscholastic athletic competition established by G.S. 115C-12(23) as amended in the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act of 2011, and to implement and follow all concussion safety requirements set forth in State Board of Education rules and policies for middle and high schools.”

The requirements laid out in the policy mandate that all athletes, coaches, and parents sign a concussion information sheet identifying the seriousness of the injury as well as the school's policy on how to handle the situation in the event a student sustains a concussion.

In addition to signing the information sheet, the policy advises that students suspected of an injury must be immediately removed from activity. “Any student-athlete who is exhibiting signs or symptoms consistent with a concussion must be removed from athletic activity immediately,” states the policy. “Further, the student-athlete must not be allowed to return to play or practice that day or on any subsequent day until he or she has been evaluated and has received written clearance for participation that complies with the requirements of G.S. 115C- 12(23) and any other applicable law or State Board policy.”

In addition to removing the student athlete from activity, the policy explains that each school is required to develop a record keeping system as well as an emergency action plan to ensure that in the event of an injury, students are treated as soon as possible.

District reviews policy regarding student use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

In keeping with fostering safer environments for students, the board of education directed attorney John Henning Sr. to work toward creating a policy involving the student use of ATVs on school property. According to Henning Sr., the need of a policy comes after a student from T.C. Roberson died after being struck by a student driving an ATV.

Henning Sr. advised the board that the two options the district could take. One, involving developing a policy that would allow students to use ATVs after complying with rules and regulations set forth by the board, or two, the board could prohibit the student use entirely.

Currently, the Franklin High School Band has two students who use an ATV for band performances and practices, and a few students who use ATVs for other sport purposes. Since September 2012, the FHS band has adopted its own policy regulating the use of ATVs. The band policy requires that student drivers must have a valid N.C. drivers license or learner’s permit, get parental permission forms signed and must register with their parents for an ATV safety course. Despite the strict band policy in place to keep students safe, the board of education directed Henning Sr. to work toward developing a policy to prohibit the use of ATVs by students entirely.

Matting for MMS gymnasium

Macon Middle School Athletic Director Matt Bradley spoke to the board Monday night seeking permission to conduct a fundraiser to purchase safety mats for the school's gym. Bradley informed the board that in order to purchase safety mats for the gym, baseline to baseline, the cost would be $4,500.

Board member Gary Shields noted that districts are required by law to provide matting in the gym and suggested that the school board should be responsible for purchasing the mats, not the school.

“I agree with Gary,” said board member Stephanie McCall. “Our students should not have to raise money for the mats. It's a safety issue, and this board should take care if it.”

School board members unanimously agreed, and voted to allot the funds needed to purchase the mats.

“I am concerned if this is a district wide problem, and considering we have a legal obligation to provide the matting, we should look at every school in the district to ensure the safety of our students,” said Breedlove.

Breedlove tasked Dan Moore with conducting a survey of every school in the district to ensure the appropriate matting is available. Moore is expected to give a full report during the January meeting.

Board votes to supply schools with door lock systems

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, school districts across the nation have been working to make schools as safe as possible. Macon County has been working to renovate each school site to limit outside access and prevent unidentified individuals from entering the schools.

During the October Board of Education meeting, Karl Gillespie with National Communications Inc., presented the board with a door lock system that would allow access to the inside of schools to be controlled from one central point in each school's office. The device features a camera to give school employees a visual of individuals attempting to access the building. The device controls the door locks preventing anyone from entering the school without permitted access from someone inside the facility.

In the attempt to secure schools, while staying inside the $40,000 budget commissioners allotted to the district for safety improvements, the board of education unanimously voted to allocate $31,800 to purchase control locks for eight schools in the district. Schools receiving the locks and the costs are: Cartoogechaye $3,850; East Franklin $3,950; South Macon $3,850; Iotla Valley $3,950; Mountain View $4,050; Nantahala $4,250; Union Academy $4,250; Macon Middle $3,650.

The door lock project is the first step in upgrading the district's safety measures and will allow each school in the district to control the access points at their respective schools.

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