Scotia-Glenville Central School District officials are trying to strike a balance between enhancing security and not frightening children.
Superintendent Susan Swartz told parents at a safety forum on Monday that she cannot guarantee that their children will be safe.
“What I can guarantee you is that every person here, every day, is working to keep children safe,” she said.
However, she cautioned parents about overreacting in light of the massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“At the same time, this is a school. I never want our children to see school as a scary place,” she said.
In the wake of the shooting, the district re-evaluated its security procedures. The district’s elementary schools now have a person at the doors to check everyone who is entering. Only one door is open in each building during the school day. The middle and high school already had that procedure in place.
Swartz reminded people to sign into the buildings when they visit and wear a name badge as she does.
“If there is some sort of crisis, if there is some sort of incident, we know who’s in the building,” she said.
Teachers have been trained to keep their doors in the locked position, so if there were a situation, they could pull their doors closed and be locked in, according to Swartz.
She said the district practices this in lockout and lockdown drills. School officials are also looking at possibly having a double set of doors at the entrance. People could enter the building to a vestibule and then would have to be buzzed into the rest of the building. That would require a capital project, she added.
The district’s safety consultant, Mike Needham of Needham Risk Management, said he and his team walked around in the buildings without visible identification and staff members quickly stopped them and asked who they were.
His report is not complete, but he said some of his recommendations will involve improved technology.
Swartz said four of the district’s six buildings have cameras. The district was planning to put in cameras in the two that don’t have them and upgrade the others even before the Newtown massacre. It is in the process of installing them on the school buses that do not have them.
Glenville Police Chief Michael Ranalli said his officers have encouraged all school district employees to reach out to police if they sense a problem.
Ranalli agreed that people who have a goal to do harm will find a way to get into the building. “The point is to slow down the bad guys and allow the police to respond,” he said.
Scotia Police Chief Pete Frisoni said his department is constantly training. “If God forbid something happens, we can respond to it,” he said.
Needham stressed that schools are very safe places.
Because of the extensive training, drills and improvements, no child has died in a school fire in recent memory. School homicides are rare.
“Children are more likely to be victims of violence away from here than they are here,” he said.
Tammi Marshall said her son is in the before-school program run by the YMCA and students seem to be able to go through the building freely before and after school.
Swartz pointed out that the district doesn’t provide staff for those outside organizations that use the building, but added that access to the building outside the school day is a valid issue.
Nicole Broadhead of Glenville said she didn’t want the school to add too much security. She said that school shootings are few and far between and a would-be criminal could shoot through a window.
“I would hate to see ourselves go to extreme and lock our schools down like prisons,” she said.
Swartz encouraged people with additional thoughts or concerns to email her at SSwartz@sgcsd.net or district spokesman Robert Hanlon at RHanlon@sgcsd.net.