Concerns for school safety

Staff writer

With national school shootings on his mind, USD 411 Board of Education president Dan Miller said Monday that he felt security was an issue the board needed to address.

“We live in a world of risk, but no one wants to see even one soul lost if we can prevent it,” Miller said. “I feel in my heart that we need to be more proactive. We should be more interactive with the community and people who are on the lookout for suspicious activity, so we can assist each other.”

Miller aired his thoughts during a discussion on facilities changes that will enhance entrance security at the Goessel Junior/Senior High School, should constituents approve and support an upcoming bond issue for district improvements.

Construction plans include a new entrance for the main building, requiring people to pass through the office and by Secretary Debbie Schrag’s desk, before entering the school. Other entrance doors would likely be locked and equipped with buzzers.

Prinicpal Scott Boden said security cameras were already in use at every entrance.

Board members unanimously approved an updated 2012 crisis plan and Superintendent John Fast said discussion of parents and staff at the elementary school often centered on whether more doors should be locked during school hours.

“At the elementary we have a central office design so that Denise (elementary secretary) can see whoever is coming in the front door,” Fast said. “Our parents and constituents are doing a much better job of signing in at the office before taking off to the classes.”

Fast also said he was very comfortable with the relationship between school officials and community leaders and law enforcement.

“They are very good about showing up and keeping communication lines open,” he said. “We also have a really strong support system with ESSDACK. They have a crisis response team that we have used before and there are a whole slew of counselors available if needed, a broad web of support to all schools.”

Miller reiterated his need to see proactive support, rather than reactive.

“I am just thinking thoughts out loud,” he said. “Are we in discussion with parents enough, do we share with students what they need to know, and are we confident we are able to protect them?”

Fast said district personnel completed extensive crisis training with Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft in October. He also said school lock-down drills could become as regular as fire and tornado drills, if need be.

“I am confident that schools are still some of the safest places for our children to be,” he said.

In his superintendent report, Fast said additional district improvement plans are well underway and a new 22-member committee, KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) recently formed. Possible co-chairs for the committee, Tina Schrag and Darcy Nickel, will help organize voting lists, voter contacts, and brochure distribution at athletic events.

Fast also plans to put out a district newsletter soon highlighting bond issue plans. The bond issue for financing district improvements will go before constituents for a vote on April 2.

In other business:

  • The board approved a schedule change for March 5, when classes will be canceled at the junior/senior high school as Goessel hosts the Wheat State League junior high music festival.
  • Fast asked board members to attend the Wednesday funeral of former district employee Anna Voth. She was a school cook for 30 years in Goessel.
  • Board members approved the first draft of the 2013-14 school calendar with 167 student contact days.
  • Georgia Thiesen, GHS senior, presented a USD 411 promotional brochure draft her business information class had been working on. Board members made improvement suggestions and commended Thiesen for her work.

 

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