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Seneca School Board discusses safety issues
Seneca School District

SENECA - At their most recent meeting, the Seneca School Board reviewed and discussed some possibilities for increasing security at the school.

One idea that was discussed was a new plan for locking doors during the school day. Seneca School District Administrator David Boland told the board that installing magnetic locks on seven primary entrances of the school would cost about $3,000. Those doors could only be opened from outside by staff and others with key fobs or ID cards.

However, Boland noted that this would probably only be in effect during the school day from 8 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

The district administrator added the $3,000 would be for changing the locks on seven doors, but would not include any cameras or other things that might be needed as part of an upgraded security system.

The board learned that school districts around the state would probably be eligible for some state funding to upgrade their security systems. The interest and funding for security is an obvious reaction to the latest school shooting in Florida earlier this month.

Boland told the board that the state was indicating as much as $100 million would be available to fund grants for boosting school security.

A grant through Drug Free Schools for $10,000 to make the school safer may be one option.

Boland also reviewed some of the discussion at a recent meeting of school administrators with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department.

At the short meeting, three points were emphasized.

The first was increasing vigilance on the part of both students and staff.

The second point was the need to budget more money for mental health assessments and intervention. Boland noted that many people are afraid of “a boogie man,” when it comes to school shootings. However, the shooter is usually not a “boogie man” showing up randomly at a school, but rather the shooter is a kid with a connection to the school.

The third point emphasized at the meeting was the work that could be done to harden the security of the school building itself.

Another proposal from the sheriff’s department was to have one officer assigned to the Seneca, Wauzeka-Steuben and North Crawford school districts. Under the proposed plan, the officer would rotate between those schools.

While having the officer might not be a cure-all, since not being in the right place at the right time was a distinct possibility, Boland favored looking into the idea, as did other administrators.

The Seneca district administrator believes having the students interact on an ongoing basis with the officer would be beneficial to increasing school security.

If students are identified as having problems that are of concern, the officer could help with that, Boland explained. The officer could also help with security planning for the building.

While the rotating school officer proposal is still in the planning stages, the idea would include some cost sharing by the districts, Boland said.

At one point during the discussion, board member Larry Kelley, who also serves on the county board, weighed in with an opinion on school security.

Kelley referenced the sheriff’s proposal for “a floating constable” moving among the three school districts, but outlined a different approach.

“I prefer more hardening (of security) with technology than with people,” Kelley said.

Boland noted there were some problems associated with hardening and not hardening the building-including periods of time when the building was unable to be locked.

The district administrator noted that students and others would know the schedule for locking doors. He also said if the district was successful in stopping an intruder from entering the school building, it could just push that person to come to a ballgame or wait for recess or other times when students would be outside the building.

Boland finished his statements on the subject by noting the average school shooting is about six minutes in length and it was unlikely that law enforcement would arrive that quickly. He stated it would be up to people in the building to try to  stop it.

It was decided to get more bids on technology needed for increased security in the building.

Boland also said the idea of the officer for the three schools is an idea that the districts and the sheriff’s department would continue working through.

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• approved a new three-year bus contract with Stratton Bus Service that allows for a 2.5 percent increase each year (Stratton agreed do some upgrading to the bus fleet it’s using in Seneca)

• approved the proposed 2018-19 school  calendar that allows for high school graduation on May 31 (after Memorial Day)

• learned that although their names will not appear on the school board election ballot, Tyler Aspenson and Charles Clark have filled out the proper forms with the district office to assume office if they are elected as write-in candidates

• decided to give the Monthly Recognition Award to middle school Storie Recker for qualifying for the state spelling bee and geography bee for the third year in a row.