Montrose ups security, safety measures

BY PAT FARNELLI

The Montrose Area School District is looking for ways to better ensure school security and student safety, and are considering hiring state troopers to police the buildings and grounds, school board members were told Monday.

Superintendent Michael Ognosky said that after the tragedy in Connecticut, and with rumors and innuendoes circulating locally, the district looked into ways of increasing security.

A buildings and grounds committee meeting was held on Jan. 8, and school administrators inquired about having the Gibson Barracks state police provide some security patrols.

Tpr. Greg Deck of the Gibson barracks,  attended the meeting, but Ognosky said that the Gibson troopers cannot provide a regular police presence at Lathrop Street Elementary, because Montrose Borough has primary police coverage.

Deck informed those attending about a School Resource Officer program that is available to the district. If the District requests an SRO, a trooper would be detached from regular duties at Gibson and assigned to the Montrose district on a regular daily shift for the 180 days school is in session. The district could create a schedule for the officer, and it could vary from day to day for special events or incidents, and could include all of the buildings in the district.

There would be a lead time of four to six months for the selection process of the trooper as well as trainings prior to the assignment. The trooper would provide a visible presence during the school day, and could assist with special clubs such as DARE and SADD, and provide instruction on appropriate curriculum topics in the classroom.

Ognosky was asked by the board to clarify the cost of the SRO, and to find out if it can service the Lathrop Street Elementary School, as it is in the primary jurisdictional area of Montrose Borough.

Other safety measures within the district were also discussed, including controlling traffic into the buildings, the interpersonal relationships between students that result in hazing or bullying, and the crisis counselor at the high school.

Ned Birchard spoke during the public comment time about his concerns with the Lathrop Street entrance.

The board asked for a safety audit of all of the buildings by a professional consultant in that field.

Ognosky gave an update regarding the events of Dec. 17-21, and emphasized that a very thorough investigation by the state police and administration was conducted, and that there was absolutely no evidence against the student who allegedly made threats of violence.

At the school board meeting, Ognosky thanked everyone who attended the building and grounds meeting, and said that although the district “went through kind of a panic during that week in December, with all the rumors and innuendoes, but that that one student accused did not have any evidence of having done anything of that nature.”

He said that the student is now back to school and functioning well.

“Right now, he is the victim in our school community,” Ognosky said. “He has handled himself very well through all of this, and is a fine young man, and I wanted to say that, publicly.”

Board president Chris Caterson said that in regards to school safety issue, in addition to SROs and bulletproof glass and razor wire at the top of fences, etc., “we should address this in a broader way. When we were using too much energy, we implemented a program and changed our energy costs not just by changing equipment, but by changing the way people behave. Please provide us with other ways we can address this, rather than just throwing money at the problem.”