Elmhurst Unit District 205 is continuing a review of safety procedures in light of the brutal murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month.
Superintendent David Pruneau told the School Board Tuesday that the district's safety protocol and procedures were developed a few years ago, but a pending review will show whether they are still relevant—and whether district personnel are following them.
"I think we got lax on some of those issues and we're trying to make sure we're following them as they are written," he said.
If one or more of them don't work, it's time to determine whether they are appropriate or whether they need to be revised, he said.
Currently, administrators are working on taking these safety procedures from "a pretty thick book" and placing them in a handy pamphlet that clearly spells out for teachers what they need to do in various emergency situations.
Pruneau said the safety protocol will be distributed to parents in the next few weeks with summary explanations about such things as, "What is a lockdown and why does the district have drills?" Pruneau said.
School security is no longer a simple matter, and a revamp of protocol will involve both long- and short-term improvements, he said. Some of the more costly safety needs, such as improving school entrances, "won't be things we can solve overnight," Pruneau said.
Federal Grants to Local Districts
Also as part of school security measures, the federal government will provide money to local districts for mental health services, Pruneau said.
Administrators and staff will need to think about how any funding in this area can be used to support the social-emotional needs of all students across the district, he said. The one thing they don't want to do is just throw money into one area "as a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy," he said.
"If you go back to Columbine, the lesson was, 'How are we including all students, and are we addressing student success and student issues across the district?" he said.
Whether the money is spent to combat bullying or provide violence prevention activities, it must impact the greatest number of students, he said.
"We just need to take our time with this and discuss what we want to do with the funding," he said, adding the discussion is preliminary. "We don't know what form that funding will take or what the requirements may be."
An examination of safety protocol, Pruneau said, also will determine whether the district needs to hire a consultant to evaluate:
- the need for a long-term study
- the current thinking on threats
- whether the district is responding to those threats appropriately
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee 100 percent safety, he said.
"The problem is, you're not going to be able to put together a totally fail-proof system," he said.
New Surveillance Equipment Coming
In a related matter, the School Board on Tuesday approved the purchase of new surveillance equipment for York High School and beyond.
"This is an investment in security," said School Board member Chris Blum.
In early December, the board issued a request for proposals for a video surveillance system and cameras to phase out the current 10-year-old system.
The new system will allow for the expansion of video surveillance to all district facilities from one central server, according to a memo to the board. It will better support the district's security and crisis management protocols and be configured to interoperate with emergency agencies.
Most of the equipment will be purchased from Convergint Technologies for a total cost not to exceed $25,000 and will include cameras, software and licenses. Eventually, all of the old cameras will be phased out and replaced, and if future budgets allow, expanded.
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