Security upgrades

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As the dreaded end of summer approaches and children go back to school, they will be noticing some new improvements to the school buildings, specifically dealing with security.

The Tabernacle Board of Education has been contemplating security enhancements for years, and district architect Scott England has led the charge in doing so.

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England is a founding member of Regan Young England Butera, a firm that has been practicing school architecture for the last 30 years. He’s also been a resident of the township for 24 years and has had four kids come through the school district.

His organization has been working with the board to develop an affordable plan.

They put a very detailed application together for the Regular Operating District 4 Grant funding that went through several levels of review including an assessment by the state Department of Education and the Department of Finance.

There were multiple school districts throughout New Jersey that were vying for this limited amount of money that was available to enhance the schools.

“Not all projects were approved. In fact, we submitted five, and we can proudly say three of them were approved, two dealing with the security enhancements and one dealing with the emergency generator at the Tabernacle Elementary School,” Superintendent George Rafferty said.

The district was fortunate enough to have the projects approved, which basically meant it would be receiving 40 percent of state share that would be used to aid these projects.

“So essentially what you’re looking at is Tabernacle Township taxpayers are paying 60 cents on the dollar for the security enhancements,” England said.

The board of education accepted these grants and hired Regan Young England Butera to put construction documents together so they could go out to bid and have a contractor build these projects to move the first step of the security enhancements forward.

“I’ve been studying school security for years, and the idea is to make the school more secure without making it look like a fortress,” England said. “The trick is to make the security enhancements look like they just fit in.“

England and his crew have made security enhancements to many of other Burlington County school districts throughout his career and will be looking to bring Tabernacle to the forefront after being a little behind.

The projects focus on having a little more secure entrance so someone who buzzes into the building cannot just walk freely throughout the building.

“The whole idea is to slow somebody down and wait for the good guys to come,” England said.

When school starts back up, there will be new entrances with an interlocking set of doors that will force everybody who enters the building into the main office to be processed.

England went on to confirm that the project is going very well with very few hiccups except for the fact they are having trouble receiving all of the wood doors.

These doors are being sent from the west coast, and the school is still waiting on three of them. The contractors will put up whatever they have until the remaining doors arrive.

Olson Middle School Principal Susan Grosser and Tabernacle Elementary School Principal Gerald Patterson had the opportunity to observe and speak with several superintendents and principals in the surrounding area.

“Your children’s safety is the most important thing in my profession, and with that said, there’s a process that has to take place,” Patterson said.

They went over the arrival and dismissal procedures and the sign in and sign out procedures with these other schools to compare Tabernacle’s emergency practices and what it may need to tweak.

One thing the principals picked up after visiting Southampton was an email blast that is sent a week before school starts to parents to go over the arrival and dismissal procedures.

“That’s one of the things that I’d like to do with regard to our school messenger,” Patterson said. “I want to reach out to the parents to make sure that they are aware of the new procedures.”

The principals stated that communication would play a large part in these new rules as they will make it a point to speak with assigned staff members, students, parents and bus drivers to ensure the procedures are going as smoothly as possible.

They also plan to keep track of the times to ensure they are being as efficient as possible while still keeping safety as a top priority.

“From what I’ve observed during my time here, the people aspect of it, we are pretty good and that will tighten up some things but what’s really going to be new for us is the architecture that we didn’t have before,” Rafferty said. “People would come in our building and could go wherever they want, and that is what these projects have allowed us to put a stop to so that we can keep your children safe.”

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