LRHSD makes significant safety, security improvements to its schools

Lenape Regional High School District’s four schools underwent significant safety improvements over the summer following a grant from the county.

The district’s Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator James Kehoe said the district was awarded a cumulative $3.438 million grant by the Burlington County Freeholders to make improvements to all four schools in terms of school safety and security. Applications and awards were done for each individual school and not the district as a whole.

The breakdown for each high school is as follows: $941,000 to Lenape, $877,000 to Shawnee, $902,000 to Cherokee and $718,000 to Seneca. Sequoia was not submitted for consideration.

Kehoe said whichever updates the district wanted to do to one school, they did to the other three, with the exception of Seneca where security gates were installed in a parking lot to control the flow of traffic.

Many installations were done in-house, as much as possible, to reduce costs, as a requirement of the grant was the district must pay for the enhancements first and then be reimbursed.

“We replaced eight repeaters and antennas with eight digital repeaters (two-way radios),” Kehoe said. “We purchased 376 new digital radios, and those radios were issued out to administration, security, school resource officers, nurses, special education, food services, trainers, coaches, physical education teachers and our clerical staff.”

The video surveillance system was also updated where five records were installed due to the current system getting maxed out as 100 cameras were being added to the current system. The 100 cameras would be placed around the inside and outside of the four schools.

He added the district would increase its camera total from 800 to 900 once the new ones are installed.

Classroom, office and exterior doors will have new locks that will allow personnel to lock the doors from the inside with a latch (current system is with a key), and to visually see if a door is locked or not.

“With that, we determined that some of our doors throughout the school could not house these new locks,” Kehoe said. “We submitted a supplemental request, which was approved, and we were able to get 341 new classroom, office and exterior doors (to replace doors) that weren’t able to hold the locks.”

Additional funding was not given for the new doors.

Numbers were also placed on the exterior windows of all classrooms, at the direction of the state Departments of Education and Department of Homeland Security, so emergency personnel can know where a situation is taking place and how to enter. Numbers are also on the inside for students and teachers to identify a room.

The district is working on updating its Lockdown Emergency Notification System to be compliant with Alyssa’s Law, which states a district must be able to silently and automatically contact police when a lockdown is initiated.

The law also says strobe lights must be activated to alert the public a lockdown has been initiated, which the district has. It is working to add more strobe lights in areas that house large groups, such as cafeterias and gyms.

“We’ll be adding speakers to the buildings’ exteriors,” he said. “Our fields are big, so the PA may not be heard and there will be some remote speakers so people who are out there can hear it.”

Classroom telephones will also be updated to give classrooms the abilities to initiate a lockdown, call the police and notify them from what classroom the call is coming.

In other news:

  • The board held a moment of silence for Seneca High School senior Joseph Bakos, who passed away following a car accident on Sept. 29.
  • Birnbohm congratulated Shawnee sophomore Sophia Westfall for winning the Survivor: Mission Catastrophe short story contest. Her winning story will be on display at the high school’s media center and in the U.S. Library of Congress.
  • Lenape got started on supporting the district’s strategic plan by introducing social-emotional learning.
  • Cherokee is welcoming 48 colleges and universities to present to students during Lunch and Learn. In addition, Monmouth, Rider and Rutgers universities are hosting instant decision days at the high school in the near future.
  • At Seneca, Birnbohm highlighted the students’ commitment to keeping the phrase “Seneca Family” alive by hosting a fundraiser for former athletic director Fred Rucker’s daughter, Marquita Rucker.
  • It was announced that 1,043 seniors in the district were registered to vote at a voter registration drive, and an additional 222 will be eligible to vote by the Nov. 5 election.
  • The Lenape Education Foundation donated $30,000 to the district to award scholarships to current students to help fulfill the district’s two graduations initiative, which supports students’ educational ventures to obtain a high school and an associate’s degree by the end of their high school careers.

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the central offices, 93 Willow Grove Road, Shamong.