Pickerington Times-Sun

Pickerington Local revisiting security procedures

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Pickerington Local School District officials last week said they're reviewing safety plans and lockdown procedures in response to the December shootings at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.

On Jan. 14, exactly one month following a shooting spree at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 students and seven others dead, Pickerington Local School District officials said they're working to ensure local school buildings are secure.

During a Pickerington Board of Education meeting, district Superintendent Rob Walker, interim-assistant Superintendent Bob Blackburn and business manager Vince Utterback also said they're working with local law enforcement officials, parents and school administrators to upgrade school emergency-response protocol.

"We continue to look at our safety plans to look at our district and school buildings," Walker said.

Walker noted that, statistically, school buildings remain the "safest place for students," but added the Sandy Hook shootings have forced the district to place renewed emphasis on current safety standards, as well as look to emerging tactics for securing and evacuating schools.

Blackburn said by May 1, the district intends to re-file its school safety master plan with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

The attorney general requires districts have a safety plan on file, and it must be updated every three years. The district's plan already was scheduled for an update in 2013, prior to the Sandy Hook shootings.

"We currently are working on revising our current safety plan," Blackburn said. "We'll probably be making some significant adjustments to our lockdown procedures."

Individual school buildings are "locked down," meaning no one is permitted to enter or leave the facilities, when district officials or local law enforcement becomes aware of a threat inside or near the schools.

In Pickerington, those lockdown procedures also include detailed plans for evacuating school buildings, and they are specific to individual buildings and facilities within those schools.

Blackburn said there currently are 12 groups consisting of local school building administrators, district administrators, guidance counselors, parents and representatives of the Pickerington Police Department, Fairfield County Sheriff's Office and Violet Township Fire Department which are reviewing the district's safety master plan to determine what upgrades are needed.

In addition to discussing and proposing changes to the plan, Utterback said building principals, teachers and staff have been reminded to strictly adhere to safety policies already in place in the district.

Most notably, he said, they're being told to be vigilant about building door security, and to make sure access points to individual school buildings are shut and locked throughout the school day and when students and staff are in buildings after school hours.

"We've been currently reinforcing the practices already on hand," Utterback said.

"The last two year or last three years, we've also kind of ramped up our efforts ... to make sure our doors have automatic locking mechanisms.

"We've gone to a badge system in the buildings," Utterback said. "What that allows us to do is know who is in a building and at what time they were in the building. That's consistent in all 14 of our buildings."

Utterback said the district also has passed on security mandates to various organizations which use school facilities after regular school hours, including local athletic groups.

He said the district has re-emphasized the need for those groups to have an individual dedicated to "manning" doors so they know who is entering a school building for their events, and added that an adult supervisor must be present before any athletes or others are permitted to enter a school building prior to an event or practice.

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