|Heightened Security for Schools|
|Written by Nancy Bowman|
|Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00|
When students return to the halls of the Tipp City schools next week, there will be heightened security from just one year ago.
Superintendent John Kronour said he hopes measures taken and yet to come, however, don’t harm the district’s tradition of feeling good about coming to school.
The 2013-14 school year follows a year of increased talk, and action, about safety of students and staff following national tragedies such as the student and staff deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and, locally, a week of threats at the high school and middle school.
The response to the threats included a public meeting during which district residents packed the L.T. Ball School to air concerns and hear about the investigation and safety measures.
The biggest difference entering the 2013-14 school year is the heightened sense of security for staff and the community, Kronour said last week. “It’s the concern and the level of concern,” he said.
One means of response is continued training, he said. That will include active shooter training scheduled for Friday for all district staff who work with students most of the time.
Changes to security plans also have been and are being made with adjustments in responses to events such as lockdown situations with the evolution of thinking on how to react to certain situations. For example, where once lockdown and hiding was accepted policy, a change to fleeing if possible has gained more support among those who try to plan response.
More presence by local police in schools began last year and will continue.
The Tipp City Police DARE officer will continue working in the schools and beginning this year will have office space at the middle school. That will allow Ptlm. Dan Rittenhouse to handle administrative tasks from the schools versus returning to the police department for those tasks.
Talks also continue with the city and the Miami County Sheriff’s Department regarding additional police presence through possible school resource officer(s). Options being explored include sworn police officers who work for the county or the city police who would provide SRO duties in the schools under a per hour contract similar to those used for off duty police at school events, Kronour said.
Another option discussed has been a SRO from the city police department, either from the current staff or by adding to the department’s existing staffing levels. City Council was discussing the SRO options at its meeting Monday.
Kronour said hopes are the police portion of the security puzzle is finalized and in place by early September. “We are hoping to get there quickly,” he said.
Threat assessment training that began last spring with district administrators will be expanded this fall to staff. Area FBI agent Tim Ferguson, who worked with administrators and participated in last year’s public meeting following the threats, will train people in each district building. The threat assessment team is taught to watch out for certain warning signs of a potential problem.
In addition, prices are being obtained on potential new security equipment for schools such as cameras for the high school and a police alert system that would contact officers directly through their radios of an emergency.
Kronour said while enhanced security steps are a must, he hopes to retain the district’s “feeling good about coming to school” atmosphere.
“I want to do appropriate steps to keep kids and staff safe but not go into a lockdown state every time something is a concern,” he said. “We have to do things that create a positive benefit in terms of safety.”
Kronour said the district also would be looking for the best ways to gather feedback from parents to ensure they agree appropriate security related steps are being taken.
“I think we are putting in appropriate first steps. This is going to be an ongoing plan with revisions and updates,” he said.