The Schalmont Central School District is planning to spend up to $40,000 to implement new safety measures, including a new intercom and buzzer system to gain entry to its school buildings and revised badges for the staff.
The Board of Education last week approved the funding to implement the top recommendations of the district’s Safety Committee, which had been reviewing security procedures in the wake of December’s Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. Schalmont held a forum earlier this month and conducted an online survey to get suggestions on how to make schools safer.
Superintendent Carol Pallas said the buzzer system would cost roughly $25,000 to implement at all the schools and the district office. It would restrict access to the buildings by creating one point of entry after the morning arrival of students.
“Anybody who would be coming into the schools at that time would have to show identification and be buzzed into the building,” she said.
This is change from the current procedure, where people are let into the building and then show identification and sign in, according to Pallas.
Seven-one percent of the 141 people who filled out the survey said the intercom and buzzer system was very important or critical, according to Jackie Gordon, high school associate principal and Safety Committee coordinator.
The district is also purchasing, at a cost of roughly $7,000, bar-coded employee identification badges that could be used to enter the buildings.
Pallas said an idea is to have security procedures on one side of the badges so people would just have to look down at their badge to be reminded about what to do in a crisis.
The school is also going to hold regular lockout drills. Pallas said a student on the Safety Committee noted that the school has regular fire drills, but doesn’t have lockout drills as frequently.
The district also plans to establish an off-site location where parents would pick up their children if schools were evacuated, according to Pallas.
“People would have a central location to go to if they need to and it wouldn’t bog down traffic coming in and out of the school in an actual emergency,” she said.
Other recommendations Schalmont will implement are adding additional security costs at a cost of about $8,000; linking the panic buttons it currently has to the 911 system; adding a signal or strobe light to tell students and staff that the school is in lockdown mode; increasing staff training, redefining the duties of monitors to have them stationed at doorways and requiring staff to sign off annually indicating that they have reviewed security procedures and policies.
She added that the total cost for these improvements may be lower than $40,000 and there is the possibility of getting state aid to reimburse a portion of the costs.
Only 45 percent of people in the survey supported requiring adult education program participants and instruction to have bar code identification badges, so Gordon said the committee decided not to support that at this time.
Another idea that was not recommended is prohibiting middle and high school students from walking outside during the change of classes.
Other recommendations that were put off for further discussion were construction of a vestibule at the middle school and high school with bulletproof glass at an estimated cost of $300,000 and creating a second exit point for traffic off the main middle school and high school campus.
Pallas also said the district has to take a look at use of its buildings on the evenings and the weekends, possibly creating a single point of entry.