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Lowellville school chief outlines 13 security upgrades

LOWELLVILLE — Superintendent Christine Sawicki announced at Wednesday’s Lowellville Board of Education meeting 13 safety changes will be made to the school after a student committed suicide with a gun in the school cafeteria in May.

Sawicki was hired June 8 and announced creation of an ad hoc safety committee at the board’s last meeting June 22. She thanked the community for its patience and said the district wanted to be strategic in its decision making, as to not make any “rash decisions.”

“These are things that we will have in place at the beginning of the school year or shortly after, but this is an ongoing process,” Sawicki said.

PHYSICAL CHANGES

The first item on the list is the rental of two weapon detection systems. Sawicki emphasized that these are not metal detectors. They are battery powered sensors that are portable to give the school the greatest amount of flexibility. To start the year, one sensor will be placed at the front entrance of the school and another at the cafeteria door, where some students enter.

Later in the meeting, the board approved the funds for these machines at a cost of $1,000 per machine, per month, and an additional one-time training fee of $2,200. Because these sensors and similar ones come at a high price, Sawicki said renting is the best option for the district, so it can change as technology does.

The Warren City School District recently approved the purchase of more than a dozen weapon detectors for its five buildings.

The weapon detectors will arrive Aug. 8 and also will be used at school events if deemed necessary.

Several security cameras in the building will be upgraded and additional cameras will be added so that all areas, inside and out, are sufficiently monitored. Last meeting, the board approved a contract to finish the replacement of security cameras in the school building and on its grounds, so that all cameras run off the same server. Because the school is in the middle of the replacement, the cameras are on two different servers, which can cause a delay in viewing the footage.

The district also is making changes to its visitor policy. Visitors already had to show an ID when entering the school, but now that will be done before the person enters the building and the ID will be run through Raptor, which is a school safety system that allows schools to scan visitors.

Staff and visitors will be issued ID badges that they must wear at all times in the building, so that in the case of an emergency, those who are supposed to be in the building will be easily identifiable.

For several years, the student dress code has prohibited hoodies, but enforcement has been lax. Sawicki said enforcement of this policy now will be strictly enforced.

The outside of the school grounds also will get some upgrades. This includes the repair of several gates and fences, as well as the addition of protective covers to the external windows of two kindergarten, the elementary music and the elementary technology rooms. These windows look out to the playground. The covers will prevent those outside the building from being able to see in. The rest of the school is already equipped with these covers.

All external windows and doors also will be numbered to help law enforcement locate a specific room or location in the case of emergency.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

In addition to the physical changes to the building and policy, Sawicki announced several programs that will encourage the entire Lowellville community to learn about issues surrounding safety and mental health. In accordance with a new law, a 24/7 bullying and safety tipline has been activated. Anyone can call or make a tip through the school’s website.

School staff also will be monitoring all district devices used by students for key words that will be flagged and looked into using the Go Guardian system.

Sawicki said that not everything that gets flagged will lead to punishment, but it will allow staff to keep an eye on potential threats to the school and potential problems with students.

Enhanced educational programs for students and staff soon will be in place regarding topics such as bullying, mental health, substance-use prevention and trauma. A planning session for these programs will take place Aug. 8. Staff and emergency responders will participate in ongoing safety and prevention training throughout the school year. Students will be involved in some drills and training.

Finally, the school district is reaching out to the entire Lowellville community through the help of the village government.

“We have to be setting the stage for the entire community,” Sawicki said. “We have to provide support for our students.”

The district and village council will be partnering to host informational sessions and workshops on a variety of topics with community members. Sawicki will be meeting with some members of council on Aug. 3 to further develop this plan.

escott@tribtoday.com

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