Rockwood School District Superintendent Bruce Borchers recently blogged that principals and school leaders met on Jan. 2, before students returned to school from winter break, to focus on school safety.
"I want to assure you keeping our students and staff safe is always our first priority. While we have taken a number of steps to provide a safe and secure environment, we will never stop looking at what we can do to be even better," he said.
However, one Rockwood parent from Eureka, Dottie Bailey, addressed the Rockwood Board of Education directors on Jan. 17 about securing certified, armed adults at all schools, as reported by Patch: Rockwood Resident Asks District to Honor Second Amendment Rights at Schools
Bailey recommends forming a new task force with parents, teachers, administrators and police. "The (Rockwood) board should not be the only one making decisions about our children's safety. If we can't afford an armed security guard or police officer for each school, then arming a principal or other administrator with the proper amount of certification and tactical experience should be discussed," she said.
Another idea Bailey suggests is having police officers in each area rotate lunch times at the schools to show resistance and force for those who would intend to do harm.
"The whole idea is to have someone armed so when the next crazy person decides to hurt children in a school, they would think twice about entering a school where they know someone is armed," she said.
"Our best defense is having some offense; be proactive instead of reactive."
Borchers told Patch he shares Bailey's grief about the tragedy at Newtown. "As superintendent, the safety of our students is my first priority. I firmly believe trained professionals in law enforcement should be the ones protecting our schools," he said.
"We are continuing discussions with our local police departments, as well as state legislators on issues of funding additional school resource officers at the elementary level."
Borchers said administrators at the Jan. 2 meeting reviewed the district's current Rockwood safety and security measures, and brainstormed about improvements that could be made. He told Patch it’s important to note that they did not implement any new safety procedures, that they talked about making sure current procedures were being enforced properly.
Some of the topics he said they discussed included:
- Visitor check-in policies: Make sure all visitors go directly to the school office to get a visitor’s identification badge. Staff members look for these IDs on adults, and immediately report anyone not wearing a badge.
MAIN POINT: Some parents at the elementary and middle schools reported the school office immediately buzzed them in without asking for any identification. It was reinforced that all support staff must ask/say the following before admitting visitors to the school:
1) What is your name?
2) What is the purpose of your visit?
3) Please come to the office and sign-in to receive a visitor’s pass.
- Surveillance cameras: Keep an eye in all school buildings and outside parking lots. School resource officers and/or school administrators should respond to any suspicious activity.
- Door access technology: Control visitors in all elementary and middle schools. Staff members who supervise this door access must ask all visitors to identify themselves and state their reasons for entering the school.
MAIN POINT: Parents had reported that well-intentioned staff members were holding doors open for visitors, if they happened to arrive at the school building at the same time. Principals were asked to remind their staff to follow the current safety procedure where every individual must request entrance to elementary and middle schools using the door access technology system in place.
- Intruder alert systems: Alert police officers/departments quickly through an alarm that can be activated by school personnel. This “911” alert lets emergency officials know they need to respond immediately.
- District safety committee: Random safety checks are conducted at Rockwood's school buildings to ensure facilities are as safe as possible.
- School crisis plan: Train school administrators, teachers and staff on the best practices to keep students safe in all situations: intruder, fire, earthquake, tornado, police lockdowns or a building emergency. Rockwood schools have crisis plans, and practice their drills frequently with students.
- District crisis plan: A comprehensive districtwide crisis management team provides their skills and experience in developing plans that support students, schools, family and community in emergency situations.
Borchers said Rockwood leaders will continue to have safety-related conversations and to determine what steps can be in the short term. In addition, he said some long-term safety improvements also will be pursued.
Rockwood will host a Safe Schools Partnership meeting at 9 a.m. on Jan. 31 at the Rockwood Administration Annex in Eureka. Borchers said this partnership group of local police departments, school district officials and representatives of other concerned agencies provide a collective voice to assure every student and parent that violence in area schools is unacceptable.
Borchers said Rockwood will continue to host the Crisis Workshop, a local community effort to inform parents of crisis planning efforts and to ensure emergency responders participate in the district's comprehensive crisis plans.
See related article: Rockwood School District Prepares for Crises
Editor's Note: Return to Patch for more details about Rockwood's plans to bolster security and safety procedures and equipment, including items enveloped by the $38.4 million no-tax increase bond issue to be offered on the April 2 ballot.