The Clarkstown School District held its first community input meeting to gather ideas from union representatives, PTA members and residents about ways to improve security and safety at school buildings. The more than 20 participants offered suggestions from establishing a first responder corps of high school juniors and seniors who would receive first responder training to installing fences around playgrounds, adding screening materials to existing fences to parking unused police cars at the schools.
Clarkstown Assistant Superintendent John LaNave and District Safety Officer Maureen Sullivan, Building & Grounds Central Adminstrator Anthony Valenti led the presentation were joined by Clarkstown Police Lt. Glenn Dietrich and Sgt. Charles Goodyear and Rockland BOCES Health & Safety Technician Dawn Izenman. LaNave explained the district already has comprehensive plans for responding to different types of emergencies caused by nature or individuals from high winds, fire to an illness outbreak. He spoke about the various training drills held for students and staff such as lockdowns, emergency evacuation and safety hold.
LaNave said a lockdown would go into effect when a crisis occurs outside the school and evacuation is not safe. All doors are locked, window shades are pulled down and everyone remains silent. A safety hold is called when there is no time to evacuate perhaps because of severe weather. The regular routine is followed, however, no one is allowed into the building except for emergency services personnel.
Among the new measures discussed was individualized training for each teacher. Lt. Dietrich said police officers will visit each classroom and meet with the teacher and staff to determine the best possible evacuation route. LaNave said more comprehensive identification is in the works.
“We need to do a better job with substitute teachers, substitute TAs,” he said.
The district is working on a plan to train substitutes in the emergency procedures and to provide ID for them. LaNave noted the district could have between 100 and 150 substitutes working in the schools on any given day. The district has a pool of 500 substitutes. Clarkstown North PTSA President Dorothy Atzl brought up the fact that parent volunteers are often in the schools helping with the school store or other programs and they need to be aware of what they should do in an emergency.
Howard Price, a corporate director of business continuity and crisis management, asked about bus safety drills, bus tracking capabilities and providing Wi-Fi throughout school buildings. LaNave said the district has bus safety training but lacks GPS tracking abilities.
“We have no devices, no software, no applications running,” he said. “We rely on the divers to tell us where they are.”
Other ideas submitted were for extended hours for security greeters, double sets of doors at the main entrance, additional camera access, code words, more exterior lighting around buildings, installation emergency generators at the middle and high schools and ability to call 911 from classroom phones.
LaNave said the presentation would be available on the district’s website. His next step is to price out the different items and review them with the police. He acknowledged not every suggestion could be implemented because of cost but said another community meeting might be called to review the list before it is shared with the school board.