Gateway looking to amp up safety in schools

July 31, 2018

Gateway School District

Gateway officials are exploring ways to best ensure the safety of all students and staff.

The district’s safety committee is considering new measures including updated policies, purchasing metal detectors, a digital app for emergency responses and software that scans social media for threats to the district.

“When you’re constantly seeing information about school shootings, it’s always in the back of your mind, you don’t want to be lax,” said School Director Mary Beth Cirucci at a recent safety committee meeting. “We always want to be aware of new technology and new ways to keep students and faculty safe.”

The first order of business, Cirucci said, is updating the district’s safety policies. Assistant Superintendent Dennis Chakey, who oversees the police force, will recommend changes to the policy in the upcoming school year, he said.

“We’re pulling everything that has to do with safety. There’s a lot that hasn’t been updated,” Chakey said at the meeting.

Cirucci said the district’s safety policies have not been reviewed or updated since creating a district police force in 2016.

“We updated some when we hired them. But a complete overhaul hasn’t been done since then,” she said.

The school’s police force grew to 17 when the board hired Craig Harnish and John LeBella July 25 at a special board meeting. Both officers will work part time for $20 an hour.

Officials also discussed purchasing metal detectors for both the high school and Gateway Middle School. Bryan Key, director of the district police force, said each walk-through metal detector could cost up to $2,700.

Talks are still preliminary, Cirucci said, but the board is open to considering two metal detectors at each entrance of those schools - one for girls and one for boys.

“Metal detectors come with a lot of other challenges other than cost,” Cirucci said. “You have to have faculty in place to work the security stations ... and we’re figuring out other points of entry because you don’t want lines like you have at airports.”

The district also is considering purchasing a Mobile Emergency Response Plan app, which would give teachers and administrators access to a customizable emergency response plan.

″(With the app), we can modify the response for each school,” said Michael Brown, the district’s director of technology. “And then teachers have access to the app.”

District administrators also discussed possibly purchasing software that scans social media for threats made to students and teachers.

“A lot of this stuff starts on social media,” said Superintendent Bill Short. “We’re fortunate to have some students who alert us of these things, but it still wouldn’t hurt.”

A Gateway High School student was arrested in February after threatening teachers and students in a vulgar message he posted on Snapchat, a popular image-sharing social media app. District administrators and school police said at the time they were notified of the threat 30 minutes before school started.

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