Recent incidents on local school campuses have sparked Houston County Schools to evaluate the accessibility and operation of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on campuses.

During the evaluation, Houston County School Lead Nurse Caitlin Thomas said 16 AEDs spread across 11 locations are at least 12 years old and need to be replaced. Another was replaced last year.

“We currently do not have one at the alternative school,” Thomas said. “We do have children and adults at the alternative school, so we definitely are in need of an AED and some training there.”

Dale County school officials credit the use of an AED in saving the life of Dale County High School sophomore Adaveion Jackson, 15, after he collapsed unexpectedly during an early morning football practice and went into cardiac arrest. Coaches, who recently underwent annual summer training, were able to revive the student with an AED retrieved from a nearby field house after unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him with CPR.

“I think without a doubt after talking to doctors at UAB and our local hospital staff that the AED was the key,” Superintendent Ben Baker said. “Having that AED saved that child’s life.”

After being first evaluated at Flowers Hospital, Jackson was airlifted to UAB hospital in Birmingham.

“That’s the great thing that comes out of this; not only is the child going to recover, but he was also made aware of an unknown medical condition,” Baker said. “His condition is great. He’s getting better and he’s alive because of the heroic actions of those coaches.”

Jackson is scheduled for surgery sometime this week to have a pacemaker inserted to prevent his heart from stopping again.

“It is a very inspiring story and a great lesson for other schools and school systems and other community venues where an AED is needed. You need to have them,” Baker said. “It needs to become like a fire extinguisher; they need to be readily available.”

Every school campus is required by the state to have at least one AED and one trained employee, but Dale County schools have up to six AEDs on each campus because of a partnership with Cardiac Solutions in Birmingham. Over the summer, the board approved funding for six more and Baker expects will approve even more after last week’s incident.

Before the initiative, which began several years ago under Baker’s administration, AEDs were scarce and predominately stored in nurse’s offices in schools. Now, they can be found at every Dale County athletic venue and in school hallways in wall-mounted cabinets, in addition to portable units.

During the last school year, five people around the state were saved with a defibrillator at school campuses; most incidents occurred at a sporting event, Thomas said.

Monday afternoon, a visitor at Houston County High School collapsed. Principal Lisa Towns said had local ambulance services not been quickly available, officials were prepared to perform life-saving measures.

Houston County School Superintendent David Sewell recommended updating the 16 outdated units at the campuses and central office locations and funding several more for the schools and every athletic venue governed by the school board.

“I would like us to look at funding some extra ones, one to be used for the athletics. At Ashford, they’d have to run from the football field to the office to get one,” Sewell said at Monday’s work session and board meeting. “I would like to have at least three at each middle school and high school campus.”

Board members seemed in favor of Sewell’s recommendation and hope to see an official proposal soon.

“I would think we’d need one at all athletic facilities for sure,” Board Chairman Vince Wade said.

AEDs typically cost $1,000 to $1,500 per unit, although companies do offer rebates for trade-ins.

Currently, Houston County Schools has 122 employees trained to use an AED, but Thomas said she hopes more will be trained.

Dale County Schools has also has a partnership with Encore Rehabilitation, which provides athletic trainers that bring their own equipment, including an AED, to practices and sporting events. Recently, representatives have monitored practices to ensure that children do not get overheated while playing outdoor sports.

“You can’t put a value on the life of a child, or an employee, or a visitor,” Baker said.

After the meeting, the school board convened in an executive session to discuss technology security as it relates to the recent server attack on system computers. No action was taken.

The school board will meet again at a regularly scheduled meeting at the Houston County Career Academy on Monday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.

Other action items:

>> The board approved postponing budget hearing dates for the next fiscal year at the request of Chief Financial Officer Kerry Bedsole because of downed internet service and equipment caused by the recent malware attack. Originally, hearing dates were set for Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, but have been moved to Sept. 12 and 16.

>>The board approved a bid from Anderson Repair Services for replacing an HVAC unit in the Rehobeth High School lunchroom with a split unit in the amount of $29,987.12. The unit will complete the series of outdated unit replacement over the summer as part of its many deferred maintenance projects.

>> The board approved a $1,000 bid to remove a tree at the HCHS football field. The district will split the cost with the city of Columbia.

>>The board approved two new flag poles for Ashford Elementary School and HCHS in the amount of $2,600.

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