South Knoxville Elementary families seek school security improvements

Parents work to fundraise for vestibule security area for the school, which provides extra protection for students.
Parents work to fundraise for vestibule security area for the school, which provides extra protection for students.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 12:39 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Just days after three students and three faculty at the Covenant School lost their lives in a school shooting, parents here in East Tennessee were eager to take the next steps when it comes to protecting their kids.

At South Knoxville Elementary, school administrators applied for a grant to implement a vestibule security area into their building which would cost just over $60,000. The grant, which was awarded, covered around half of that total cost while the school had a private donor lined up to cover the rest.

When it came time to pay, the donor was unable to do so which paved the way for parents like Courtney Stepleton to take matters into their own hands.

A gofundme was started to raise the additional $30,000 for a system that would keep someone entering the school in a waiting area where they don’t have access to teachers or students until a staff members lets them in.

“It just seems like a really simple ask and a really simple security measure,” said Stepleton.

While parents raise money, a Knox County Schools spokesperson said they would never ask families to help fund a security project.

“The district does not ask schools to fund any security improvements. Every school has a safety plan that is unique to their specific security needs. These plans are fully funded and include regular updates and enhancements as determined by our security team. To protect the safety and security of our schools, we cannot comment on the details of these security plans.

Earlier this year, SKES administration chose to take advantage of a grant opportunity because they had secured a private donor interested in installing an additional measure of security at the school that goes above and beyond what our annual security review deemed appropriate. Unfortunately, the private donor is unable to provide the matching funds.

Now that we are aware of this gap in funding, we are working with the school to address their interest in this added security measure.

As the Superintendent announced earlier this year, school safety is his top priority. Our school security team conducts regular reviews to ensure our students and staff are safe and protected within our schools.”

Knox County Schools