Written by Gabriella Iannetta Friday, 11 January 2013 00:00
The primary topic of discussion for the North Shore Board of Education meeting held at Sea Cliff Elementary School was to report and discuss security procedures. Superintendent Dr. Ed Melnick began the meeting with a brief presentation on the new suggestions for school safety.
The objective was to not only present what the board has researched since the Sandy Hook tragedy but also to open the floor for other safety suggestions. Melnick said school safety is an endless project to ensure students receive the utmost security, with little intrusions to their everyday school experience.
Dr. Melnick and Director of Facilities for the District-wide Safety Committee John Hall created the safety presentation shown at the meeting. The presentation was to ensure that all safety drills are being executed to the best capabilities. Each building has detailed plans that are filed with the Central Office Building Level Safety Team. These plans include details on the post incident response team, incident command system, evaluation plan, emergency notification, desktop table drills, hazard analysis, annual review/revision of plan, emergency response team, volunteer search team, early dismissal plan, sheltering plan, needs of handicapped, emergency drills, transportation, and immediate emergency response. The details of these plans are not available to the public for safety reasons.
Currently, North Shore schools go over three types of shelter drills with their students: lock-down, lock-out and in-place. The lock-down is to protect students against a threat inside the school such as a shooter and require the school have no movement, having all students and teachers take shelter in their respective classrooms. The next, a lock-out, is to protect threat outside of the building, such as a community crime like an armed robbery, where no one will be permitted to leave or enter the schools under any circumstances. The last is an in-place shelter, for extreme weather conditions or bomb threats, where students will be relocated to one safe area as a whole. Parents will be informed of all drills the school will hold and in the case of a real emergency, an automated system will post on the district website and call all parents with details for immediate contact information and the current situation. Moreover, each classroom has a PA button that rings the front office in the case of an emergency.
The board presented four considerations for future precautions. The first is to have all doors, including the front doors, locked during the school day and install a buzzer system. Prior to Sandy Hook, front doors were always open. A new video intercom system will give the security guards a chance to see who is at the door before they are allowed in the building. In addition, the security guards, all retired New York City police officers, will be doing regular building door checks to ensure all doors are locked and not damaged. The last recommendation is to have all staff carry employee ID badges, so students and other staff can easily identify proper school employees.
Teachers, board of education members, and the school POP officer (Police On Patrol), have done tabletop drills. Tabletop drills reenact specific scenarios and analyze if the school is taking all proper measures for safety. In the last tabletop drill, the school demonstrated their procedure in the case of a one-man shooter. In this scenario, the staff learned that there was no classroom number visible on the outside of the building for the police and fire department to easily identify.
Ultimately, the administration stressed that the school has been up-to-date with the best security possible and little intrusion on students’ lives.
Trustee Herman Berliner expressed that he would like to see a reputable security agency do an audit on the school to receive more accurate suggestions and feedback on the district’s safety procedures.
Dr. James Albanese, a parent, expressed concern on draining the budget on too much security stating the resources could be spent on more “direct” concerns like adding AD devices, adequate training, and free athletic programs.
Board President Carolyn Genovesi acknowledged Dr. Albanese’s concern, and mentioned that the district is not only focusing on “high-risk events that happen like in Connecticut” but “our biggest issue are domestic issues and non-custodial parents coming to the schools where their children attend. “