Deptford’s board of education held a special meeting on March 7 to focus on the submission of a preliminary budget for the next school year that places a strong emphasis on school security.
“Safety is our number-one priority,” said Board President Joe McKenna.
“We all prioritize student and staff safety with next year’s budget and the remainder of this year’s budget,” said Acting Superintendent Kevin Kanauss. “It’s important to us to make sure that all of our students and staff are safe. So, we developed goals and a plan heading into next school year to tackle a lot of the security features that we want to keep everybody safe.”
Those plans include adding four more security vehicles to patrol the township and schools, an effort to demonstrate that there is a “presence of security,” as McKenna put it, at the board’s building. The board also wants to add two more security officers to the rotation.
Other additions include security vestibules at three elementary schools – Good Intent, Lake Tract and Oak Valley – and to the high school.
“It’s like this one (the board’s building’s), where you come in, both doors are locked and you have to get in the first set (of doors),” said board member James McDevitt. “That doesn’t mean you’re in the building; you’re still in the vestibule, and then you get cleared to come in before we allow you through.”
The board declined to reveal the exact amount being spent on school security, but did announce that a public hearing on the budget will be held on Tuesday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. That meeting is expected to include more details on what is being spent in other areas, such as a large paving project that will add new roads and repair older ones looping the school properties.
The aim, according to McKenna, is to improve traffic patterns entering and exiting.
The security additions are a response to recent mass school shootings, including last May’s violence at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed, and 18 people were injured.
The result in Deptford is a rethinking of how to keep schools safe and secure. Kanauss believes the district is headed in the right direction.
“I think as an administrative team, as a board of education, as a group working cohesively, all of our thoughts and plans are in the right direction for supporting our staff and students” he said, “and keeping everybody safe and out of harm’s way the best that we can.”