Watson Chapel High School has added a new paved semicircular driveway in front of campus as part of an effort to protect students. Watson Chapel School District assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and facilities Bill Tietz oversaw the construction of the driveway that connects to U.S. 79, also known as South Camden Road. This driveway is to be used by parents who are dropping off students and other visitors.

“It is basically for security issues,” Tietz said. “Before parents would come in the back and drop their kids off. They'd have to go through the whole school to get to the office. Right now they come directly to the office [and] we don't have people wandering the campus. It's a win-win.”

The cost to construct the driveway was about $200,000. East Harding was the main contractor. People may park in the driveway for up to 10 minutes, Tietz said.

Educators cannot take chances regarding protecting their students by securing a campus, he said. Buses are not using the new driveway. They are using the driveway on the other side of the Watson Chapel High School campus to drop off and pick up students.

Watson Chapel High School Principal Kristy Sanders sees the new driveway from her office and said educators prioritize protecting students, which means locking exterior doors and making visitors enter through the front door.

“This will be great for parents to enter next to the principal's office and check their children out,” Sanders said.

The high school used to have eight doors in the back from which parents would enter and then wander to the main office, she said. The district employs security director Officer Paul Jones, School Resource Officer Linda Yancy and security guard Willie Edwards.

“(Edwards) is the one who is manning the grounds and the gate 90 percent of the school day,” Sanders said. “Now we can make our campus more secure and we can lock all of those back gates so we can have school without distractions.”

“I think it's a wonderful addition and it was very much needed,” Sanders added. “And it makes all of us feel safer.”