Safety improving in local schools

By SHANNON CAULFIELD
The Shamong Sun

The Shamong Township Board of Education has been actively improving safety measures since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred in mid-December.

The safety committee recently held a meeting to prioritize the needs of the schools and upgrade safety measures.

“Everything is taking off as far as security,” said Todd Hall, the building and grounds supervisor for the district. “We’re taking everything we’ve got and are prioritizing the best we can, even state troopers don’t have all the answers.”

One of Hall’s main concerns is the teachers’ ability to lock classroom doors, which currently can only be locked from the outside in the middle school.

“When we call a drill, they have to go outside, lock the door and come back in. At the elementary school, 90 percent of the school has locks on the inside of the classroom,” he said, noting the remaining 10 percent is currently being dealt with.

According to Hall, he has already received a price on changing the doors so they can be locked from the inside, which will be changed right away. The goal is to have the project completed by the end of February.

“For the teachers that can lock the doors from the inside, they don’t know which way to turn the lock. They’ve been going outside of the classroom to check and see if it locked,” said Hall, adding he will be ordering stickers with an arrow directing which way to turn the key, avoiding the issue of entering the hallway.

None of the doors will be installed with padlocks of any type. The doors will only be able to be locked with a key due to fire safety regulations. Teachers must have the ability to open the door from the inside no matter what.

Entering into Indian Mills Middle School will become uniform with the elementary school.

To enter the elementary school, guests must be buzzed into a foyer and again buzzed into the office. The middle school does not have the same setup, and according to Hall, will be changed as part of safety precautions.

The custodial staff will become busier during the school day.

“My maintenance and custodial people will be doing a lot more walking through the building. I told them if they’re not working while waiting for a work order, they’re walking,” said Hall.

Another safety measure taken by Hall includes placing an order for bright yellow lanyards that visitors and anyone not working in the building must wear. In the same vein, those lanyards will assist substitute teachers during a drill or an emergency.

“On a lanyard will be a card, and on the card it will tell them the drill and what they’re supposed to do. Now, they’ll have the card and know what to do,” said Hall.

In addition to the safety precautions put in place, Hall and IMMS principal Timothy Carroll have plans to take emergency situations a step further.

No doors will be unlocked any longer. There will be a teacher holding a locked door open for the students as they arrive each morning and during drills. The teacher will then re-enter the building through a door with a keypad.

“When we did fire drills before, there was a 15-minute window where doors are unlocked. We’re not doing that anymore,” said Hall.

Additionally, the fire drill itself will be readjusted, creating more of an unpredictable scenario for students to adjust to in the event of an emergency.

“We’ll do lunch-specific drills; most schools don’t call drills at lunch. We’ll be training with the kids and the individual grade levels. We’ll also have short assemblies with the kids to go over what to do if they’re in the hallway when a drill happens,” said Carroll.

Carroll reported the school did an active shooter drill, stating two separate teachers approached him to apologize for kids laughing.

“Both of the teachers in two separate situations said before they could even say anything, kids in the class jumped all over them to quiet them. It was positive peer pressure, and it worked,” he said.

One of the last changes the district will see will be an upgrade to the phone system through the Board of Public Utilities.

In other news, Jeff Warner was sworn in as a board member for a one-year term.

Other regular action was taken on agenda items.

The next board of education meeting will be held Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Media Center of the Indian Mills Memorial School, located at 295 Indian Mills Rd.