MCS weighs measures to tighten security

By Joe Moskowitz
It happened in the quiet, safe community of Newtown, Connecticut, and now schools across the country are re-examining their safety plans just in case someone in their community is considering the unthinkable.

Margaretville Central School District Superintendent Tony Alabanese says, “In one blink of an eye all that is common that you believe in, becomes uncommon.”

Last week Tuesday several dozen faculty members, administrators, board of education members, parents, and just concerned citizens, gathered in the Margaretville Central School Auditorium to review the school’s safety plan and to make suggestions on how to make improvements.

Tony Albanese started the meeting by saying it is the responsibility of the school to keep the children safe. Albanese said, “We’re here to educate children. We’re here to take care of children as well.”

The superintendant told the crowd that while MCS is safe, there are things that can be done to make the school safer. And to that end he announced that Carol Johnson, who had recently retired from MCS, was being hired to serve as “Safety Plan Coordinator.”

MCS, as do all schools, has a safety plan in place. That has been a state requirement since 2000, and Johnson pointed out some of the highlights of the plan, including lockouts. All exterior doors are locked, but inside it’s business as usual. Shelter in place. That’s where all of the school population is moved to a single or multiple locations in the school. Lock down. That’s where no one leaves a room. There are also procedures for bomb threats and evacuations.

Weighing the issues
Then it was time to split into groups. The people at each table pointed out concerns they had about school security and at the same time came up with suggestions about how to solve any potential safety problems.

One of the most common concerns was access through the main entrance. There were a number of suggestions ranging from an elevated booth to creating an enclosed vestibule that one would have to pass through in order to gain entrance. At the end of the session there was a suggestion that the front entrance shouldn’t be used at all. The gymnasium entrance could be used and would be much easier to secure.

Another common theme was that parents should be made aware of elements of the safety plan. And in case of an evacuation, parents need to know where their kids have been taken. All substitute teachers also need to have full knowledge of the elements of the safety plan. And, there should be more emergency drills.

Arming faculty or staff was not one of the recommendations.
The board of education will sift through all of the suggestions before deciding what steps to take.