Board looks at security issues

In the wake of the December Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, schools around the country are taking a closer look at their emergency procedures and examining what can be done to make schools safer.

“We’ve asked a lot of questions, and parents have called and asked a lot of questions,” New Prague School Superintendent Larry Kauzlarich said at Monday’s meeting of the New Prague Area School Board.

Kauzlarich asked each of the building principals and administrators to tell the board and the public what has been done in the past month in terms of school security. Here are some highlights of those remarks:

Tom Doig (high school) - “The school has done the state-mandated lockdowns and added unique situations to each... such as lunch time lockdowns.” He has also talked with the Chaska principal after a lockdown there earlier in January. “No matter what plan you have, it’s just a plan,” Doig said. “Things don’t always go according to plan. You need to communicate your expectation with the teachers and students.”

Amy Eich (community education) “With our preschool we have a lot of visitors throughout the day. We need to look at securing the build-ng, possibly with an electronic lock on the door.” Lana Puffer (ECFE) “We have a smaller building with unique issues, we are considering locking the doors to the classrooms.”

Pat Pribyl (Raven Stream) “Our staff had a lot of questions during a meeting. John Madigan (school liaison officer) did a good job of putting the staff at ease. There are a lot of things other schools are putting in place that we are already doing.”

Dave Giesen (Falcon Ridge) “Even before Sandy Hook, we had changed our dismissal and pickup procedures. We’re always trying to find out what’s best for kids. Our staff is confident and we have a good plan in place.”

Tony Buthe (special education) “The CEC building presents some challenges because of all the different programs and entrances. We need to get staff in one part of the building familiar with what is happening in the rest of the building.”

Brad Gregor (Eagle View) The first thing we do each year is to review our Code Red procedures and make sure every one is familiar. We have met with the Elko New Market police chief and found that they did not have keys to the building. We have other concerns we are addressing.”

Tim Dittberner/Aaron Garnass (middle school) “We are in a unique situation because of the sixth grade annex. We have addressed concerns, but are still looking at what cracks there might be and how to address them,” Garnass said.

Kauzlarich summed up the presentation, noting that “We are in a free society. We don’t want to be in a prison, but we still must take due caution.” The district is giving consideration to several changes, one of which would involve video intercoms and locked doors where someone in the building could admit people electronically.

Two parents were at the meeting to speak in the open forum. Both said they were happy with what they heard and are glad the district is being proactive. Marla Mayer brought up issues such as making sure training is provided for substitute teachers, Ryan Williams thanked the administrators for bringing up the topic. “It’s a big area of concern for parents in the community.”