Chris Delmain, Meramec Valley R-III School District director of support services, led a discussion with school board members regarding the evaluation of safety and security in all district buildings.
Speaking at the Jan. 16 school board meeting, Superintendent Randy George said the district has stepped up talks on school safety following the horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“We’ve had these reviews before and after one shooting incident after another,” George said. “But after a period of time we would move to other issues. This time, we’re determined to keep the emphasis on school safety forever.”
Delmain discussed building reviews, safety procedures, information being gathered and improvements that are being made.
Doors and locks are being updated in buildings throughout the district, he said.
In a September 2012 bid, the school board voted to eliminate Pacific High School from the schedule of work and postpone replacing doors and locks there until a planned renovation project take place.
However, the administration recommended and the school board approved a decision to reverse that action and voted to make new doors and locks at the high school building a priority and move forward with replacements there.
“Since the day I started here, we started to work on things like site visibility to street and behind buildings and we’ve cleared brush along fences,” Delmain said. “We reviewed cameras and locking devices on front of school and we’ve made regular checks on those.”
Delmain said he and other officials check on school doors each morning to make sure doors cannot be pushed or pulled open.
The district had considered bulletproof glass for the front doors, but after receiving bids it was determined that two things make that impractical — the weight of the glass and the cost to redo all of the doors in the district.
“We’d be looking at $700 for one panel or $1,400 for one side,” Delmain said.
There is a bullet-resistant glass that contains a film between two sheets of glass.
“It will break, but won’t shatter all over the place,” Delmain said. “If someone tried to break through, it would buy some time.
“This (the Newtown school shooting) happened so quick we can’t get all the bids back as quick as we’d like,” he added. “We’re looking to find ways to do this.”
Delmain also is talking with the police department about the possibility of officers taking breaks in school parking lots and maybe walking around the buildings and making themselves available to walk throughout the buildings.
“The police department plans to do training on Jan. 29 in one of our buildings,” he said. “Just seeing a police car at the school could be a deterrent.”
George said the first thing that officials think about in terms of safety is a shooting, but there are other safety factors that could affect Pacific students.
“We’ve had train derailments here from time to time so we have to think about hazardous material,” he said. “That could have a devastating impact on students”
As the district weighs possible hazards to school safety, the cost of protection must be worked into the building maintenance budget.
“Cost of safety should not be a consideration,” George said “There should be no top end to the cost of safety, but there is, so we have to find the best option for every situation.”
Delmain also is talking with school officials about procedures.
“Things like secretaries taking time to look and buzz visitors in slowly,” Delmain said. “We will install a camera tomorrow in the middle school hallway. The way it is now, you can see people come in front, but don’t see where they are going, into an office or down a hallway.”
Talks with safety officials in other school districts are taking place as well.
“What I’m finding is that we’re on top of the game,” Delmain said. “We have cameras in place, we’re getting our doors completed with only two more schools to complete. We’re close to being ahead of the game.”
“Security is a key issue for us,” George said. “We want parents to feel safe sending their kids to our school.”
Drills will be maintained as a priority in the school district. The safety committee is currently working on an emergency plan.
“Each time it is ready to go to print, a new idea comes up. It’s a living document,” George said. “Chris (Delmain) is hoping to get it done sooner.”