Following the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the superintendents of the Island Park and Oceanside school districts responded to worries of parents concerned over the state of local school security.
“We have done everything that we can possibly do to ensure the children’s safety,” Dr. Rosmarie T. Bovino, superintendent of the Island Park public schools, told the Herald in a phone interview. “We are prepared as can be.”
Bovino’s office went over the safety and security procedures Island Park schools have in place in a letter dated Feb. 16. The main points were:
Identifying all persons before entry.
Mandating visitors make appointments before arrival.
Require that all visitors wait in what it described as a “man-trap” — a secure, lockable room at the entrance to the schools — before approval for entry and escort through the building (even for siblings of students).
And at the district’s Feb. 26 business meeting, the Island Park Board of Education discussed the installation of a five-foot, black chain-link fence around the fields at Lincoln Orens Middle School for the purpose of protecting children during recess. The fence would be in addition to ones already at the Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School and around some areas at Lincoln Orens.
The main opposition to their installation, the letter read, is homeowners in the area who said they feel the fences would be aesthetically unpleasant and create an unwelcoming environment for the school playground. The board will meet on March 19 to decide whether or not to move forward with the initiative.
In regards to the inside of the buildings, Bovino told the Herald that new doors and electronic lock and key systems were installed recently. The doors in each classroom have the smallest windows allowed by the state, which are intended to obscure one’s field of vision while peering into the classroom from the hallways. All can be locked from the inside. Additionally, the entrances into the building are bulletproof and Bovino said the schools participate in lockdown drills that include police presence.
In Oceanside, a handful of concerned parents spoke near the end of its Feb. 28 Board of Education school budget workshop. One resident, Dave Ferrante, asked, “What steps are being taken to protect my kid and the rest of the kids that go here?”
Schools superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington assured Ferrante that there are electronic systems in place to lock intruders in or out of the school buildings and rooms, identification checks at the entrances and protocols ready in case of emergency. She said drills are practiced and security monitors are installed at the high school, but not at the middle or elementary schools.
“We are confident that what we do have in place, to the best of our ability, keeps our kids as safe as we can reasonably keep them,” Harrington said. When he asked about if the staff has taken active shooter training courses, she said only some administrative staff had. And when Ferrante asked about licensed security people on school premises, Harrington answered that there are none.
“We do our very best, we train our staff to the very best of our ability,” School No. 6 principal Julie McGahan added. “But by no means do we want to give anyone a false sense of security and say we have the perfect system in place.”