For the third time this year, police and township officials from Mantua, Harrison and Wenonah held a private roundtable discussion about improving the safety of schools in the area.
The session late last month followed record school shootings in the 2021-’22 academic year, including the murder of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in May. The statistics have the entire nation wondering if its schools are truly a safe place for children.
“We have to try everything that we can do,” said Mantua Mayor Pete Scirrotto. “We’re all trying to stay on the same page. One of our ideas is to try and get bulletproof glass in the foyer of our schools.
“The second idea that was brought up was upgrading the camera system,” he added. “We’re in the last part of our budget this year. The schools have their own tax system, and we have to work with them.”
An upgraded camera system would enable police to have cameras placed outside a school and to monitor things discreetly from a console in their cars. Police are also trying to make the idea part of standard operating procedure that would include random stops at schools, according to the mayor.
Besides Scirrotto, the roundtable included Harrison Mayor Louis Manzo and Wenonah Mayor John Dominy. The three appealed to the state by letter for more money to improve school security, without success.
“I was disappointed with how the state didn’t send money,” Scirrotto acknowledged. “But maybe they’re at the end of their budget season, too, so I understand why.”
One idea the state is experimenting with, according to Scirrotto, is providing 911 operators with school layouts so they can specifically target classrooms. That could enable police and other emergency services to act more quickly and efficiently in a dangerous situation. Mantua’s police department also serves Wenonah, and Mantua kids attend Clearview Regional schools in Harrison.
“Policing and protecting our children is and has always been a priority,” said the Mantua website. “By working more closely together, we can find better solutions with shared resources, funding, services, etc., to better protect our school communities.”