With school security concerns taking center stage at the West Deptford School District's final board meeting of 2012, administrators confirmed they'll take additional safety steps in the wake of the Newtown, CT, school shootings.
Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman gave a detailed statement to the board Monday night that re-iterated the district's current security plan and unveiled a few new measures in response to
The security changes announced at the meeting are subtle and designed to “tighten up security,” according to Kitchenman. They included having every classroom door closed and locked at every school, adding more security cameras in addition to the ones at the main entrances of the schools and more keys for the West Deptford Police so that they can have easier access in the case of an emergency.
In addition to the new changes, West Deptford Police will have an increased presence around the schools this week. Kitchenman said there are no plans for increased police presence inside the schools, beyond the district's school resource officer.
Staff also received security procedure reminders Monday. Kitchenman said that the school district follows the state's guidelines of having one security drill per month for each school. This includes two lockdown drills per year run in conjunction with West Deptford Police.
Things were handled diligently in the schools Monday, especially in the elementary schools. Staff members received an attachment by email on how to properly help out students who are afraid after Friday's shooting. Students in the elementary schools who had trouble coping with the event were permitted to go to counselors today.
Board members posted many questions about school security improvements in the future to prevent a similar incident as the Sandy Hook shootings. Ginny Brockway asked whether metal detectors were an option at schools, while Amy DeGirolamo asked if a potential shooter could enter school buildings through the windows.
James Mehaffey, board member and former chief of police in West Deptford, helped field some of those questions, noting there is only so much the school district can do to prepare for such an incident. Metal detectors are too expensive and if a weapon was brought into the school, it likely would not be out in the open, he said. Mehaffey added that the board can only prepare for a possible event based on past events—anyone can find a way to get around a security system.
“If people want to get into the school, they're going to find a way to get in,” Mehaffey told his fellow board members.
Security before and after school was also a concern. Kitchenman said the district will review ways to make security tighter during those times. One concern, raised by Donald Hicks, was strangers entering the West Deptford Middle School's back doors prior to classes starting. The back doors are unlocked in the morning so that students can enter when they arrive on the bus.
“Some of our bus drivers enter the school in the morning through the back door to hand in disciplinary reports to the office or use the restroom,” Kitchenman said.
Though attendance was sparse at the meeting, one parent, Tina Smith, came forward to the board with suggestions and comments. While she was relieved to see increased police presence outside of school this morning, she was upset to learn that she didn't receive a letter that was supposed to be sent home to elementary school parents today. Smith has a child who attends Greenfields Elementary School.
“I understand that letters only go home on Wednesday, but this is something that is very serious and needs to be addressed now,” Smith said.
Despite the different opinions on handling school security, the school board agreed everyone's interest lies in making West Deptford Schools at safe as possible.
“This year has been a very violent year,” board president Christopher Strano said during his opening remarks. “It's been a very difficult year to be a parent.”