POTSDAM - Following an incident two weeks ago at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School that led to the lockout at the districts three academic buildings, Principal Larry B. Jenne announced some changes are on the way.
Mr. Jenne, who also chairs the districts safety committee, said there will be changes in policies for picking up and dropping off of students at his building, We need to change that so parents do not come into the building, he said.
Mr. Jenne said an exterior door currently grants access to the cafeteria.
He suggested blocking off a portion of the cafeteria, creating an area for parents to wait while picking up students at the end of the school day. Mr. Jenne said at the beginning of the day students will be dropped off at the door and walk to their classrooms without their parents.
In the morning we allow parents to come into the building with their kids and walk them to class, he said. I feel that is a security issue we need to address.
In addition to the incident on Oct. 3 when the stepfather of an elementary student was arrested after making statements that Mr. Jenne perceived to be a threat, Mr. Jenne said there have been other smaller-scale incidents that led him to think about the policy change.
One of the things that happens is parents come into the classroom and address the teachers, not always in a happy manner ,and sometimes using language that is inappropriate and where other students can hear it, he said. Were going to take care of a lot of those situations.
Mr. Jenne said he understands the implementation of the new policy is going to be a change for some parents, but he feels like in todays world it is a necessary change.
We cant think were immune to these situations, he said. I dont want to ever be in a situation where were not doing everything possible to keep our students safe.
Board of education member Danielle L. Gray agreed with the changes. I agree with you completely, she said.
Board member Frederick C. Stone Jr. said that with an upcoming capital project security upgrades are something that should be further discussed so that they can be included in the project.
Maybe we need to sit down with SEI (the districts architecture firm) and look at creating a pick-up and drop-off point.
While speaking to the board, Mr. Jenne also detailed how he felt the lockout situation was handled.
We always did lock down drills instead of lockout drills, he said. Some teachers went into lock down, because its what they have always done.
In lockout mode, activity continued as normal in each of buildings, with the only change being no one was allowed to enter or leave the building. Had the district gone into lock down mode, each of the classrooms would have been locked.
Given that there were students outside at the time of the lockout, Mr. Jenne said those students were taken to another district building, which was then locked.
Mr. Jenne also pointed out that this weeks school shooting in Nevada actually happened on a playground.
Our goal is to look at these issues each month and see what we can do to get better, he said. I think its pretty timely to be looking at security.
Board member J. Patrick Turbett said he agreed with the changes as well, but advised Mr. Jenne that he could expect to receive some negative feedback. I think your suggestions are good, but theres obviously going to be some people not happy with them.
Mr. Jenne said it is his plan to notify parents of the changes before they are implemented.
Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said hes actually heard from several parents on the matter, as word of the proposed changes has started to spread through the community, and most of what hes heard has been positive.
The majority of what weve seen from the parents is they do want to see this change, he said. We are at the point where we need to look at that.
Two parents in attendance at the meeting said they agreed with the changes, noting school security is what brought them to the meeting in the first place.
My concerns have been addressed, said Amy DiMarco, who noted that she has either taught or had children in schools in five different states and three different countries.
Potsdam has the slackest visitor and entry policies, she said, comparing their policies to the other districts. Traci Grainger also supported the changes and said this time she would like to see the district stick with them.
She said that last year following the Sandy Hook massacre the district briefly implemented some changes, but later relented after receiving negative feedback.
I would like to suggest that any changes you do make you stick to them, she said.
Board omember Wade A. Davis, who chairs the districts buildings and grounds committee, said he didnt think discussion on the schools security issues was something that should be held in public session.
This issue doesnt need to be in the public realm, he said. There needs to be appropriate balance for public disclosure and the need to keep things private.
Along those lines, Mr. Davis said the buildings and grounds committee is planning to present proposed security upgrades to the full board at its Dec. 10 meeting in executive session.At the Dec. 10 meeting there will be a general discussion about security upgrades in the capital project, but the specifics will be provided in executive session in a handout, he said.