BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - When a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, two years ago, the tragedy forced many schools to study their security plans. The Bay-Waveland School District brought in a team to conduct a safety audit. What the team found prompted the district to invest $4.4 million to shore-up security at several campuses.
Every week, you will find the Bay High JROTC and the band practicing on an open field right next to Pine Street. Bay High Junior Tyler Phillips doesn't consider the conditions very ideal.
"I really don't like the safety part about it, because the road's dangerous. Also, people can trip and break their legs and ankles with roots on the ground," said Phillips.
To make the area safer, the school is about to install a concrete drill pad. The space, along with the rest of the Bay High campus, will also be enclosed with brick and wrought iron fencing.
"We're just outdated. This school was built in 1965 and has been added onto numerous times. So we're adding ADA compliant sidewalks, energy-efficient lighting with underground wiring, each lighting post will have a surveillance camera on it," said Brad Barlow, Bay-Waveland School District Operations Director.
The school will also have a more secure lobby. Right now, the main entrance is at the back. Next summer, the foyer building will be torn down to make way for a grand atrium at the front of the campus.
"We have well over 20 access points. Our goal is to have one," said Barlow. "We'll have a receptionist and an SRO officer up there that will have the capability to buzz visitors and guests back to the school."
Bay High will also add parking for students, staff and visitors.
Bay-Waveland Middle School will also get new sidewalks, LED lighting, surveillance cameras and 40-additional parking spots.
Over at the athletic complex, crews are installing new bleachers that are ADA compliant. Tiger Stadium will also have new sidewalks, football turf, and a re-surfaced track. The goal of the district's "Safety Infrastructure Project" is to address athletic, pedestrian, and overall campus safety.
"We had been thinking along the lines of safety in our five-year plan and ten-year plan. But the Sandy Hook shootings really lit the fuel behind that fire to make us move and make us put it into action," said Barlow.
The entire project is expected to be finished by the end of next summer.