He proposed that the schools hold a safety orientation in the beginning of the year, to give students a better understanding of who is protecting them.
During the school day, all doors in every building are locked, excluding the main entrance, said DeVito. He described it as being “locked out, not locked in.” Every door has a panic bar, so students may exit in case of an emergency, a parental concern at the last school board meeting.
A provision of the district’s preservation plan was that all exterior doors would have new key fob access. When a teacher scans their card, the system records who entered, as well as when and where they entered. Also, teachers only have access to the building through certain doors and at certain times of the day, something that is decided by the building principal, said DeVito.
The school preservation plan, approved by votes in 2009, allowed for numerous infrastructure improvements across the district, especially dealing with security. More than 200 video cameras will be installed throughout the district, as well as motion sensors inside the buildings, to act as “burglar detection.
But the most anticipated change will be the “visitor management systems” installed at the main entrance of each school. Upon entering, visitors will be contained in a secure vestibule where their I.D. will be checked against local and national criminal databases, and they will be logged and issued a visitor’s pass.
Apart from structural security, DeVito also spoke about the role that school personnel play in student safety. He referred to school staff as “first preventers,” meaning they have the ability to identify an unsafe situation and intervene.
Principals, vice principals and deans make it a point to be present in the hallways at the start of the day, to greet students and observe, said DeVito. They monitor body language and listen to conversations, and are on hand to diffuse potential conflicts and identify at-risk students.
“They welcome students; they set the tone for the day,” said DeVito. “It’s a reassuring element … this is a warm welcoming place to be.”