Secretary Sara Blankstrom responds to the entry request on the monitor. She can also communicate with the visitor through the system.
As the entire nation mourns the loss of the 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., each community can’t help but wonder about security measures at their own local schools and what the schools’ plans are in case something happens.
Schools in Muskegon County have shared with the community their crisis plans by letters sent home to families of students, and on the district website.
Montague Area Public Schools Superintendent Nate Robrahn wrote a letter to the MAPS community reassuring families that their children are safe while at school, and MAPS has a detailed emergency plan.
Each of the MAPS buildings requires any visitors to enter through the main doors and sign in at the office. According to the letter, in the case of a questionable adult were to surpass the office, MAPS has an advanced security system that instantly locks down main doors to prohibit access to internal classrooms.
There are surveillance cameras and advanced locking systems in all buildings, stated Robrahn.
“This incident has reinforced the importance of our relationships with each other, our students and our community,” Robrahn said. “By all working together we can make all of our public places as safe as possible.”
MAPS uses the Instant Alert System to notify parents of school closing and any other issues that require immediate communication. Montague Schools also collaborates and communicates with both the Montague Police Department and the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department.
Reeths-Puffer Schools uses detailed emergency plans, lockdown procedures and evacuation plans to keep its students safe. Steve Edwards, R-P superintendent, sent out a letter to students’ families this week explaining the procedures R-P uses in case of an emergency.
Any person entering an R-P school must sign in at the office, which is also where they enter through. If there is an emergency, R-P uses the Instant Alert System.
Edwards stated that because of the recent events, the schools will be reevaluating their security and emergency procedures and testing the current systems when school resumes in January.
This week, rumors were started that a student was going to bring a gun to Mona Shores High School on Friday. Those rumors led to Reeths-Puffer parents stating they heard similar rumors about R-P. According to Edwards, the rumors were investigated diligently by building and district administration and were found to be false.
Whitehall District Schools Superintendent Jerry McDowell also wrote a letter to the school community that the district is concerned for student safety, and works with other agencies to continue to update the safety and security measures in the schools.
That cooperative effort included a meeting this last Wednesday between school administrators, law enforcement and school board members to review district policies and protocols. That meeting included school principals, Whitehall police, and heads of the transportation, school lunch and maintenance departments.
McDowell, in the letter, wrote “We will take a close look at all of our systems and make changes we deem necessary.”
The superintendent said Whitehall follows state law P.A. 337 of 2006 which requires six fire drills, two tornado drills and “lockdown” drills each school year.
The school district and City of Whitehall, McDowell said, work closely in school safety. The city has a liaison officer in the schools. Officer Travis Bolles, McDowell said, spends much of his time in the high school, but could be in any building within minutes.
The superintendent also said the district has placed high tech security systems in the schools as part of the 2010 bond issue approved by voters.
All four district buildings have interior and exterior surveillance cameras. Whitehall High School and Shoreline Elementary Schools have “buzz in” systems for visitors for the school day. Secretaries in the buildings’ main office can view the main entrances through video/audio monitors. Those schools are locked during the school day.
Entry modification to Shoreline this summer, funneled visitors from the entrance doors to a locked door inside the main entry. Visitors, who are allowed through the locked door, must pass through the office to gain access to the remainder of the building.
The superintendent said Whitehall Middle School and Ealy Elementary School will soon have “buzz in” security systems. Additional exterior security lighting have been added to the school buildings.
Also, school staff members enter buildings by using identification cards.
“We continue to make sure children are safe every day,” McDowell said.
“As a parent, it is most important to recognize the students are safe, and the people in the schools are there to help them. People who work in schools are good people who work for the safety, security and learning for each child.”
School officials said, in providing safety and security, the most valuable assets are the students. If they see or hear anything suspicious, they are urged to let a school official know.