VALDOSTA -- The Valdosta Board of Education wants to improve security at Valdosta High School.

The board Monday voted to request bids for equipment to improve safety.

Recently, Principal Tommy Craft addressed members of the board, asking them to consider installing a fence along the school's perimeter and surveillance equipment both inside and outside the facility.

"I perceive our greatest vulnerability to serious school violence is not on the inside of our building but rather on the outside," he wrote in a memorandum to Valdosta City School System Superintendent Sam Allen. "Unauthorized individuals enter this campus by the dozens towards the end of the day just trying to meet up with a friend or foe. Additionally, everyday students ride the bus to school, eat breakfast and/or lunch, and walk off campus never to return for the day or returning in time to catch the bus home. You can be assured their activities while off campus are non-academic and counterproductive, if not illegal."

Craft would like a high fence along the back portion of the campus, which borders a residential neiborhood. He said that's where the majority of the foot traffic problems arise. A security shack and attendant, installed during the 2002-03 school year at the front of the campus, has helped with pedestrians on the rest of the campus, which would be protected by six-foot and four-foot fencing.

"The heighth of the fencing would be based on the needs of each particular area and our viewpoints," Craft added.

Plans are also under way to move all student parking to the north side of the campus. Bus pickup would take place on the south side. Craft said this will assist with traffic flow issues. Both lots would be monitored by video surveillance at all times.

Surveillance cameras will also be installed inside the school building in various locations including the cafeteria, the gymnasium, and the hallways.

Craft also requested an upgrade to the school's communication system, which he described as unreliable. He said it's mandatory that school administrators have the ability to clearly communicate with each other throughout the day regardless of their location on campus.

"Efforts to enhance security on campus have been in the making for some time," Craft said. "We are simply trying to get an old building up to speed in terms of supervision and safety."

The project, if ultimately approved, would be paid for with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax monies.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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