EL addresses safety concerns; board mum on Williams pipeline

BY PAT FARNELLI

Elk Lake School Board took time out Thursday to address school safety concerns.

But some of the 20 visitors at the meeting said they expected to hear more about the school’s hiring of legal counsel to handle a pipeline dispute.

Bush said that the Williams Company requested that no discussion of the pipeline issue be made at the public meeting, as a contract is still in negotiations.

“We think that it will come to a conclusion fairly quickly,” Bush said. “Williams would like to complete this as quickly as possible.”

However, regarding safety, Bush said that after the incident in Newtown, Conn., administrators met with staff, and a moment of silence for the victims was observed during the school day, Dec. 14.

The following Wednesday, administrators, staff and faculty met in an in-service “to discuss what do we have to do, down the road, to make our facility even safer.”

Bush said the staff and teachers gave suggestions to their respective principals.

“Some of these will be brought up for board approval and board discussion,” he said, noting that armed security guards might be part of the solution.

He said that the Western Wayne School District has hired a school resource officer, and the position is currently filled by a state police officer, at a cost to the district of $95,000.

He said that Gibson barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police have jurisdiction of the school property. “Dimock is our municipality, they have to approve it,” Bush said.

He noted that Montrose Area School District also is looking into hiring a school resource officer.

Bush said that there are various regulations regarding what SROs are able to do in regards to arrests.

“Local schools are getting coverage,” he said. “We have a meeting coming up to look at this closer.”

Bush said that another possibility is arming school personnel, and locating weapons in secure places in school.

“There will be a threat assessment tomorrow conducted by two former State Police on a Scranton task force,” Bush said. “We have been waiting two years for this assessment, and they will be looking at all aspects of the school.”

The school has been narrowing down the number of entrances in use, and considering requiring faculty and staff to swipe ID cards to get into the buildings.

To address the possibility of a student or staff member entering the building with a weapon, metal detectors may be a solution, which Bush said other districts have told him cost $40,000.

One simple security upgrade already being implemented, he said, is extending existing security entry zones to inside of buildings, creating a waiting area.

“In Pittsburgh, one large district added security, have state police manning each building, costing $260,000″ said Bush. “This included 15 personnel manning entrances.”

Board vice president Matt Curley asked, “What kind of resources are there for staff helping them be aware of what to do, how to spot potentially dangerous person, see signs of instability.”

The school had been conducting regular lock-down drills, and two years ago moved students to Montrose campus for one disaster drill.

“To make a school totally secure, it would have to be done from ground up, and even then it really couldn’t be done,” board member Chuck Place said. “But vigilance can make it more secure.”