In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut, Worthington Schools determined that a team was needed to assess Safety and Security in the district. Over the past five months we have taken a deliberate approach in an effort to make the most appropriate changes to our school environment.
The members of the Safety and Security committee who have met regularly are: Dr. Thomas Tucker, Jeff McCuen, Julie Keegan, Angie Adrean, Bob Cunningham, Vicki Gnezda, Tim Gehring, Mark Hill, George Joseph, Dr. Tamu Lucero, Jeff Maddox, Dr. Jim McElligott, Pete Scully, Pam Sturiano, and myself.
The committee was brought together to discuss:
- District and School Safety Plans
- Student Mental Health
- Safe and Secure facilities
Prior to the committees work, conversations with various stakeholders took place to gather insight, feelings, and concerns. Dr. Tucker and Jeff Maddox met with a parent representative from each building to discuss what is in place from a building and district level and to hear from the parents what their concerns were in regards to safety and security. Directors met with their principals to review the individual building Crisis Plans and to review facility concerns. In addition, Dr. Tucker and Jeff Maddox made a presentation to the Worthington Rotary, to gather feedback from a community perspective.
Finally, an outside security company, Brawnstone Security, was brought in to review all 19 school buildings, the Transportation building, and the Worthington Education Center. Over a two day period, representatives from Brawnstone Security met individually with each building principal, asked specific questions in regard to their facility, and walked each building taking notes and pictures. The focus of the assessment was to review and make recommendations for the following areas:
- Outside Perimeter
- Inside of Facilities
- Training of Staff
The Safety and Security committee reviewed the individual facility reports and discussed the feedback from the various stakeholders. The Safety and Security committee agreed to a “Phase-in” approach, with Phase I being facility improvements for the upcoming 2013-2014 school and Phase II being improvements that were tabled for further discussion.
On Monday May 6, Tim Gehring, Director of Facility Management and Jeff Maddox, Director of Innovation and School Support updated the board of education on the work of the Safety and Security committee and the recommendations from the committee on facility improvements.
The following recommendations from the Safety and Security committee were based on discussions, presentations, feedback, independent evaluation and the desire to improve the security of our facilities:
- Elementary/Middle School – Security camera and buzzer system at the main entrance, main entrance glass windows and doors addressed with a protective film, 911 panic button in main office, digital walkie-talkies with a dedicated channel to the Worthington Police department, and training for the staff.
- High Schools – Due to the complexity of the high schools an architect will be commissioned to provide us 4-5 options to create a forced entry into an office, main entrance glass windows and doors addressed with a protective film, 911 panic button in main office, digital walkie-talkies with a dedicated channel to the Worthington Police department, and training for the staff.
- Elementary/Middle School – Forced entries into the main office.
- High School – SROs and internal surveillance cameras.
The training of the staff will be critical to the success of the recommendations. Tim Gehring and Jeff Maddox will meet with individual principals and secretaries to discuss the placement of the new equipment, protocol on how someone gets “buzzed” in, use of the new walkie-talkies, and panic buttons.
In addition to the facility improvements, Worthington Schools has been working in partnership with North Community Counseling (NCC) to increase our mental health services for the students. A proposal has been sent and preliminarily approved by ADAMH which would provide increased funding for NCC and ultimately the Worthington Schools. Once officially approved, we will work to determine how to best connect the new resources to the students.
Our district will be using a design-build construction delivery method now available for use by school districts under House Bill 153, Ohio Construction Reform Laws. This model of procurement for services includes a Request for Qualification and Request for Proposal process which is used to “short list” qualified contractors in the selection of a contractor. Qualified contractors will present their proposal and be interviewed. The contractors’ proposals will be ranked based on a weighted performance criterion. A contractor will be selected based on the value of their proposal, creative installation methods and ability to accelerate the proposed schedule. The selection method will allow us to move forward prior to the completion of the design to save time, obtain a guaranteed maximum price to complete the project, provide a single prime contractor responsible for installation and the completion of design.
This project is anticipated to be completed prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
Preliminary cost is estimated to be $23,000 for each building. The basis of design includes the installation of four electronic door access locks, one camera located at a primary entrance, and intercom with buzzer. This estimate may vary during design based on the need for additional camera and intercom locations for handicap doors not placed at main entrances. Panic button estimates will be determined based on the availability of existing dialers to be determined during design.
Our Number One Priority
Safety is our number one priority. In Worthington we believe that keeping our students safe by making enhancements in each of our three main areas is critical. We need to deepen our staff training in implementing our safety plans, we need to redouble our efforts, and potentially our resources, in providing mental health services to students and we need to make the necessary changes to our school facilities. All three areas have significant importance and all three areas will see improvements. We are not naive enough to believe that any one thing will lead to complete safety and security in our schools. Our belief is that by addressing the physical facilities, increasing our mental health resources, and training staff, safety and security will be increased.