New equipment, new procedures and additional training are making Groveport Madison schools safer, according to district officials.
Dean of Students Richard Playko reported at the Feb. 12 school board meeting that electronic door locks and audio-video intercoms will be installed in all district school buildings by the end of February, and new Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) emergency radios will be coming soon, possibly before the end of March.
The school district received two separate grants from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the equipment: $2,000 per building for the door lock and intercom systems and another $5,000 per building for the emergency radios, according to Playko.
"We'll have a set of protocols put together for how to get into the buildings that we'll distribute as well," he said.
Visitors to the schools will be required to use the intercom system to be buzzed in. They will then be directed to the office, where they will be asked to provide identification and sign in, Playko said.
Once the emergency radios are in place, they will connect each building directly with first-responders if there is an immediate threat to students and staff.
"The dispatcher for both Madison Township and Groveport police departments is the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, so there will be a silent emergency button we can push, similar to what they have in banks," Playko said. "I hope that, come next month, we'll have these in place."
School lockdown training also has begun, and Playko said more information about what students are being taught will be communicated to parents, along with the other information about building access.
Groveport police officer Josh Short said he, Playko and Madison Township police officer Tim Johnson collaborated to work on identifying safety issues at the school buildings and to provide Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate (ALICE) training to students and staff.
"Back in October, I got together with Madison Township officer Johnson, dressed in black and fatigues with a backpack, and we were able to get into every building and not be challenged by anyone for at least five minutes," Short said. "In the high school, in 15 minutes, I was only challenged by five people and during that time, I passed dozens of students and staff."
Following this, and after debriefing staff members at the schools, another intrusion test was done in November. Short said at that time, the officers found more doors locked, and he and Johnson were stopped by a staff member within 30 seconds of entering any district building.
"I'd say we've had 99-percent success with our training because the staff took it so seriously and did such a good job of relaying information to the kids," he told the school board.
He students have been taught how to barricade their classrooms and how to react to anyone threatening them.
"The teachers have set up meeting locations outside if the kids are able to flee, but we're just focused on the shelter-in-place drills right now," Short said. "We've debriefed with the kids and the feedback is that they feel more empowered now with this information."
Playko said the district is required to complete this training once a year but he hopes it will be done at least four times in a school year, just as fire and tornado drills are.