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St. Lawrence Central Plans capital project to improve school security

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BRASHER FALLS - St. Lawrence Central School officials will be asking voters to approve a $375,000 capital improvement project in April to beef up school security.

Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said that, as part of their current and already approved capital project, they had planned to install cameras and buzzers at each entrance as part of their increased security efforts.

However, he said, the doors would still be open, making it easier for someone to get into the buildings.

Those plans will now be discarded in favor of a new option - renovating the main offices at the elementary and high school to add a window between the exterior and interior entrance and exit doors. Visitors will need to sign in and be physically buzzed in through the interior doors.

“I think most experts would tell you you’re better off to have a big window” as opposed to a camera that might not capture every detail about the person, Mr. Putman said. “The safety of our students is always on our mind.”

The project will also change door handles in classrooms to allow them to be locked and unlocked from the inside and outside. Currently they can only be locked or unlocked from the outside.

Voter approval is necessary because it’s an additional cost to their current project, according to Mr. Putman, who pointed out that the district is eligible for 98 percent state aid on the project and still has EXCEL aid remaining.

“It’s pretty simple at the high school because the secretary station is right there. At the elementary, it requires a reconfiguration of the office space,” he said.

“It will take a little while for parents to get used to it,” he said, noting the increased security outweighed the inconvenience for visitors.

Board members unanimously approved the motion for the project, as well as scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. March 26. The capital project vote will be held from 1-7 p.m. April 9.

Prior to taking board members had heard a presentation from Tim Wagoner, an elementary teacher who was also taking part in an administrative internship. Mr. Wagoner had been tasked to do a safety audit of the district, and one of his recommendations for the board to consider in the future had been the change in building access.

Mr. Wagoner said he had performed a safety audit using guidelines from the New York state Center for School Safety, which entailed six areas of examination, including grounds and building exterior, building access, building interior and general security.

Discussing building access, he noted that the recommendation is to require visitors to sign into the building and receive a name badge. Currently, however, there is more than one point of entry at the middle and high school, and the main entries are not locked, allowing easy access to the building. In addition, Mr. Wagoner said, there are no anti-intruder alarms during after-school hours.

Inside the building, he noted that some bathrooms do not lock and some classrooms must be locked from the outside. That means teachers who wanted to lock their classroom in the event of an emergency would need to open the door.

Mr. Wagoner also pointed out that the district had a lack of hall monitors, as well as no school resource officer or on-site law enforcement presence. They also needed to address emergency response plan training for substitute teachers and consider conducting tabletop exercises that would allow them to examine different emergency scenarios, he said.

Outlining possible projects for next year, Mr. Wagoner said district officials should consider a school safety team and encourage parental involvement. He also recommended that windows be numbered so they can be identified from outside the building, that an elementary fence near the pool be replaced and that handles on the bathroom and classroom doors be replaced.

“Overall, the school is in compliance with 90 to 95 percent of the material covered in the school safety plan,” he said.

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