Forums to focus on school safety

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is holding five community forums over the next two weeks to update residents on school safety and seek feedback on ways to make schools even safer.

Three of the forums will take place next Monday to Wednesday at three schools, all starting at 6 p.m.: Baton Rouge Magnet High on Monday, Woodlawn Elementary on Tuesday, and Scotlandville Magnet High on Wednesday

A fourth forum is scheduled at Northeast Elementary at 6 p.m. Feb. 27, and the fifth forum is scheduled at Forest Heights Academy of Excellence on Feb. 28.

School administrators who focus on school safety conducted a rehearsal of sorts at a Feb. 7 School Board meeting.

School system officials gave an audio-visual presentation offering some results of a security assessment conducted within the past three years and financed by a federal safety grant. They showed a video supplied by Emergency Response Information Portal of Jefferson City, Mo . The district uses this web service to house and to update its school-level crisis management plans, inform and train employees and monitor whether schools are conducting required drills.

“The more you drill, it becomes second nature and the better we can mitigate damage to humans and damage to property,” said Herman Brister Sr., associate superintendent for instructional support services.

First responders also have access to the web service on jump drives and via the Internet.

Sandra Smith, coordinator of special support programs, told the board that the service includes maps, photos of school exteriors and interiors, floor plans and the locations of fire extinguishers, security cameras and shut-off valves.

“That’s the great thing,” Smith said. “Nobody has been to all of our schools, and they don’t remember every part of our schools.”

Brister said almost every school principal and some teachers have undergone two courses in what’s known as “incident command training,” where they learn how to deal with an incident and successfully hand the situation off to a first responder.

Brister said since the fatal Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the parish school system has instituted a
text alert system so that the superintendent and top administrators can try to stay ahead of incident information that gets out by students who post it online through smartphones.

Others steps taken since Sandy Hook include having hall monitors with two-way communications devices monitor school visitors and securing funding for a new fire alarm and burglar system, Brister said.

The school system is also researching the cost and usefulness of steps taken by
other districts, including buying permanent metal detectors, replacing older security cameras and adding
new ones, installing buzz-in doors at school entrances,
and paying for resource officers at every school, Brister said.

“Safety and security is a constant, moving target. Things are happening all the time,” Brister said. “We have to go back all the time and revisit how we’re doing what we doing.”

Brister said the forums next week will start with a presentation similar to the Feb. 7 presentation to the board. It will include break-out sessions where attendees can choose to offer feedback on the topics of security-related equipment, school environments and buildings, or emergency preparedness.

รค ON THE INTERNET:

http://www.ebrschools.net/eduWEB1/1000144/docs/02.07.13iii.1.pdf

Editor’s note: This story was modified on Feb. 14 to correct the forum date on the fourth forum and add the fifth forum, which the school system added after the story was printed.