DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — Decatur City Schools will welcome students back into the classroom on Wednesday, August 10 for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Ahead of that return to the classroom, district officials met with News 19 to discuss the new school year.
“For the first time since 2019, the start of the school year is going to look like a normal start of the school year,” said Deputy Superintendent Dwight Satterfield. “We’re excited about our kids getting back in school and learning again.”
As the new school year starts, there are no COVID-19 protocols or mandates in place across the state of Alabama.
Satterfield said the district will not impose any COVID-19 protocols, though they will monitor cases and possibly take action if any outbreaks happen.
“We’ll treat this just like any other cold [or] flu season,” Satterfield stated. “When you start to see 15 percent of a grade, 15 percent of a class, 15 percent of a school out, then we’ll have to make decisions, and those will be made on a case by case basis.”
In addition to physical health, student safety is also on the minds of district officials.
Satterfield said this year the district has eight school resource officers (SROs) that will roam through 20 locations in the district. He said he is working to increase that number.
“We’re working with the city and I have requested, and we hope to have in our October budget to have an increase in the number of SROs,” he continued.
He said the number of SROs is tied to the Decatur Police Department, which has struggled with staffing issues over the past few months and years.
Satterfield said the school district may have to get creative in its SRO staffing.
“We hope to either hire some additional school resource officers or bring in some retired officers that will serve,” Satterfield continued.
News 19 asked the deputy superintendent if the district would ever consider working with a private security firm or establishing its own police force.
“That’s something that’s definitely not off of the table,” he said. “At this point, we’re satisfied with what we have with [the] Decatur Police Department, we just want to increase the numbers.”
In addition to SROs, the district is cracking down on security by taking a look at entry points. Satterfield said they’re working force entry through the main office, or secured entry points at each school.
“Anytime we can have a controlled setting, it’s easy for us to manage individuals coming into our building, that way we know who’s there and they can be properly vetted,” he concluded.
Satterfield also emphasized a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to vaping and e-cigarettes. He said the district is looking into installing systems that can detect vape smoke and vapor in unmonitored areas, like bathrooms.
Ahead of the new school year he also wants to remind parents, students, and community members to obey school zone speed limits and keep an eye on students utilizing crosswalks.