PE Focuses On Security

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – With the tragic shooting deaths at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, schools across the country are taking a closer look at security.

Including Prince Edward.

Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith told school board members in January that they had conducted two drills in all three schools-the lock-out drill and the lock down drill-on Friday, January 4.

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“…Staff and students were prepared before those drills. The drills went fairly smoothly and then we got feedback from teachers after the drill about their suggestions-what they thought went well, some things they thought we might want to consider for improvement in (the) future and we are planning to repeat those drills around the first of March and then next year we will do those drills the opening week of school and the opening week of second semester,” he said.

Previously, the superintendent said, they did the drills once a year.

The lock-out drill, the superintendent would clarify last week, is designed to practice steps taken if there were an intruder trying to get into the building or if there were a threat of some kind outside of the building.

The lock down procedure, he also noted, is a drill aimed at practicing steps if there were a threat on the inside of the building.

“Yeah, certainly, it created a sense of urgency for all schools everywhere across the country,” Dr. Smith said, when asked last week about the event in Connecticut spurring action. “And, so we wanted to take the opportunity to be sure that all of our staff members were familiar with the procedures as a refresher.”

They always learn from any drill, Dr. Smith told The Herald.

“…We've also had some discussions with local law enforcement, the Sheriff's Department, and also with a representative from the State Police office in this area,” Dr. Smith informed the school board. “The sheriff's department especially, I'd like to commend for their support, their participation, and also for the on-site support that they have shown before Christmas and after Christmas in patrolling outsides of buildings and being an active presence on campus at all three of our schools. We really appreciate that partnership and support with our local sheriff's department.”

School board members also met in closed session to discuss details of the security plan.

“Some of the suggestions may lead to a discussion that might rise to the level of changes to the structure of building's entrance ways, other security measures, locking mechanisms upgraded in many cases,” Dr. Smith commented in open session. “So the drill was important, it was important that it went well, teachers were prepared and they helped keep students focused and calm and it went very well.”

School board member Dr. Timothy Corbett asked if the facility issues were very big or real significant.

“Well, suggestions that need to be studied that would have to do, for example, with changing how the pattern a door locks and also the possibility of upgrading installation of cameras,” the superintendent said. “And then some more very generalized information…from an individual's perspective that might be helpful, as well.”

One of the structural changes, which the superintendent said would be a high priority in the new capital improvements plan is enclosing the walkway entrance way between the fifth grade wing at the middle school and the main part of the building.

“…That's currently a covered walkway, but when you're in that covered walkway you feel like you're really kind of in an isolated area and so we have actually asked a firm that specializes in school construction to give us a rough ballpark estimate of what that addition might cost so…we have a figure (to) put on the CIP,” Dr. Smith said. “And that's one that I think would be a high priority.”

The project, placed in the school board's draft CIP, is projected to cost $83,774.

Also in the plans for the coming year is the addition of a full-time resource officer for the elementary school. Prince Edward currently has an officer at the high and middle schools. (A bill in the General Assembly would provide some form of grant funding to offset the cost for schools across the state.)