District plans to up safety measures at schools

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — At the Greater Jasper School Board’s monthly meeting Monday night, Superintendent Tracy Lorey gave board members a rundown of actions and ideas that the schools aim to implement to bolster buildings’ security in the coming school year.

After returning to school, some students will notice visible changes to their buildings like higher security entrances. Teachers will also wield the power to contact police and notify fellow staffers of an intruder with the touch a button. Site reviews and the unification of emergency protocols districtwide are also a priority, and the corporation is looking into adding an additional school resource officer and involving students and parents in conversations about safety.

“It does continue to be a focus of our efforts,” Lorey said of school safety. “We have been spending quite a bit of our time working on ways that we can currently shore up what we view as some of our needs now, but just noting that we will continue to be working on this all the time, especially as things change.”

Securing entrances

Supplies have been ordered to increase the security at main entrances at various corporation schools. At Jasper High School and Ireland Elementary, materials have been ordered for the installation, construction and revision of the main entry systems.

A new door will be added at the high school entrance that links the vestibule immediately inside the building to the main office. Currently, the vestibule does not lead directly to the office, but instead to a hallway in the school. The new door will be installed in the existing windowed wall that separates the main entry vestibule from the office. That stretch of glass will be wrapped in security film as part of the project.

At Ireland Elementary, a glass wall with an aluminum frame outfitted with a secured door will be installed inside the main entrance to direct visitors to the main office. Once inside the office, the receptionist at the main entrance desk can unlock the new secured door, granting access to the rest of the building. Scott Stenftenagel, The Stenftenagel Group’s clerk of the works, said he believes both the high school and Ireland projects will be complete within a week or two after the district’s first day of school, which will be Thursday, Aug. 9.

At Jasper Middle School, security film will be installed as an extra layer of protection on the glass of the school’s north and south entrances. The security film will delay the intrusion of someone by approximately six minutes, Stenftenagel said at the meeting.

He said this morning that the goal is to have the middle school project completed before students return to class.

A panic button

Lorey said the corporation plans to implement a smartphone application called SchoolGuard that will act as a panic device for staff members in the event of an armed intruder. The app would instantly alert law enforcement and teachers in the school of the intruder. It uses cellphone location services to immediately contact all federal, state and local law enforcement officers — both on and off duty — who are in close proximity to the school.

“It cuts the response time by law enforcement in that type of an emergency significantly,” Lorey said.

Site reviews and emergency plans

Glenn Buechlein, assistant principal at Jasper High School, and Jasper Police Department Officer Jason Knies, the district’s school resource officer, are heading up a district school safety team to align safety plans at each school. The team is comprised of district administrators and other corporation designees and met for the first time today.

“Our directive or our charge is to develop common language in our safety plans,” Buechlein said today in a phone interview. “A common format, common responses to threats and having common protocols and procedures.”

The group has been directed to assure the policies are uniform by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

Greater Jasper school buildings will also undergo tactical site reviews that will invite in law enforcement, fire and safety officials to assess and pinpoint areas that are susceptible to security weaknesses.

The district will implement a protocol called ALICE — which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Lorey said the protocol will guide how students and staff would react in the event of an intruder.

Second resource officer

The district recently submitted an application for a Safe Schools grant offered by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which would help fund the cost of fielding a second school resource officer in the corporation. Currently, Knies is responsible for all five of the district’s schools.

Lorey said the district has had positive conversation with the City of Jasper about the prospect of bringing another officer to the schools, but noted even if an agreement between the schools and the city is reached and the funding is locked down, the new position would likely not be established until January. She said the timing is due to the way the two entities’ budgets work.

Student Safety Council and parent safety groups

The district is beginning to explore ways to effectively involve students and parents in the school safety discussion, Lorey said. Some ideas for ways this could be achieved include forming a Student Safety Council for kids in grades three through 12 and potentially offering parent education programming that would address various issues and topics of safety.

“That could be anything from cyberbullying-type of things to substance abuse awareness, to how schools respond to armed intruders,” Lorey said. “We are exploring that as an avenue for addressing school safety.”




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