Clarkstown School District Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton informed parents and guardians of the in-place security precautions and safety drills including lockdowns, emergency evacuations and shelter in place. He outlined the district's emergency preparedness and its ongoing discussions with the police department about possible additional measures.
Currently all classrooms in the district are being upgraded to enable doors to be locked from the inside. Public address systems are being updated in six schools and the emergency generator at the Felix Festa Middle School is being replaced as part of the renovation of its emergency lighting system.
Dr. Morton wrote that some of the items under consideration are the installation of panic buttons at each school that would connect directly to the police department and placing armed guards at all elementary schools.
Here is the complete text of his letter.
Over the past several days some community members have asked us to provide additional information regarding our level of emergency preparedness. Understandably, parents want assurances that their school system has taken the necessary precautions to maximize safety.
As you know, CCSD has invested considerable time and money to prepare our staff and students in the case of an emergency. Some of the ongoing training includes:
1. Lockdown training (including drills with staff and students)
2. Emergency Evacuation training
3. High Wind/Shelter in Place training
4. Tabletop Emergency preparedness drills
5. Incident command training
6. Fire Safety training (including blocked exit fire drills)
Additionally, we added a number of Life/Safety items in the 2012-13 budget. These were intended to improve our emergency preparedness. This was well in advance of the recent crisis in Connecticut. All of these projects were considered and planned as part of the 11-12 Capital Budgeting cycle. Below is a summary of these projects:
Re-Keying all locks across the district- this provides a means for each classroom to be locked from the inside during a lockdown emergency. Much of this work has been completed with ongoing work being scheduled. This project is valued at approx. $350k
Additional card readers and cameras - added 8 cameras and several badge readers across the buildings. This project is valued at approx. $35k
PA system replacement in 6 schools - The PA system is a critical means of communication within the schools during an emergency. The three schools that have been completed are Birchwood, Link and Congers. The three remaining schools are Strawtown, Lakewood and Woodglen. This project is valued at approx. $200k
Fire Safety/Emergency Lighting -This work includes upgrades to fire stairwells, emergency lighting and parking lot lighting at FFMS. This project is valued at approx. $268k
Emergency Lighting Generator at FFMS - This replacement generator is required to improve the reliability of the emergency lighting system. This project is valued at approx. $90k.
As you can see, there has been much activity in our district to address both the training of students and staff as well as upgrading the building infrastructure. Together these activities have improved our overall emergency preparedness.
It is also important to point out that we continue to collaborate with Chief Sullivan of the Clarkstown Police Department. Below please find an excerpt from Chief Sullivan’s recent correspondence to me on this subject.
“The safety of our children has always been the Clarkstown Police Department's highest priority. Since the Columbine tragedy we have been on the cutting edge of modern police practices such as active shooter and rapid deployment tactics. We conduct yearly drills with our officers and all school personnel and remain in constant contact throughout the year. Of course, the most important tool we have in the fight against these senseless tragedies is the close working relationship we have with the school administration, staff, and parents. Only working together can we reach our common goal which is the security of our schools and the safety of our children.”
Lastly, there has been much discussion over the last 72 hours regarding additional measures to add to our preparedness. I will briefly share some of the items being considered.
1. Adding armed guards at the Elementary schools
2. Installing panic buttons (direct call to police) at each of the schools
3. Adding camera monitors for greeters at each of the elementary and secondary schools
4. Provide access to all CCSD security cameras to the Clarkstown Police Department
5. Expanding the hours of security personnel to cover morning extra help sessions and evening activities
We are committed to provide a safe and healthy environment for the children of Clarkstown. I look forward to working together with our community regarding this important matter.
Dr. J. Thomas Morton