CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Students at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill returned to classes from the holidays Monday to find a very visible new piece of security in place.
A 7-foot fence now blocks the breezeway at the front of the school on West Main Street. It's now only unlocked when students arrive and when they leave to go home. The school converted a classroom into a new front office and welcome center. All visitors must go through there to access campus.
It's part of a long-term project that has boosted security at every campus in the district in some way.
Senior Carson Guest said the changes are needed.
"This has always been a big hole in this school,” Guest said. “So it's really nice they added this extra security.”
Construction crews added two doors in what used to be a classroom and converted it a new front office. There is a reception area called a welcome center, and the school resource officer's office is now located there.
All visitors must now enter through there, as well as tardy students who show up after the gates lock at the morning bell. They don't open again until the day's over. Channel 9 spoke to the new principal at Northwestern, Hezekiah Massey III. He said with 100 teachers and about 40 aides, everyone knows they have a job to do, which is to be vigilant.
"If we can make our students feel just a little more safe on campus, make our staff feel more secure as they're in their classrooms doing their jobs, then we can do a better job with instruction," Massey said.
A larger gate system is being put in place at Rock Hill High School, which has the roughly the same campus layout. Rain delayed work over the holidays.
Two handguns, one loaded, were found on campus at Northwestern this school year. In both cases, alert students spoke up and told their teachers. That led to random bag checks at all three of the high schools.
Massey said area high schools are hoping to get a second full-time school resource officer on their campuses. That is being discussed but is not funded at this time.
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