• Fort Osage School District ponders security changes

  • One week after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, school districts around the country are continuing to focus on what can be done to improve safety measures while children are in school.

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  • One week after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, school districts around the country are continuing to focus on what can be done to improve safety measures while children are in school.
    It has also forced one area school district to shift focus, delaying plans to spend remaining money from a recent bond issue.
    “Due to Sandy Hook, school safety has risen back to the top of our priority list,” said Fort Osage Superintendent Mark Enderle. “If we think we can make safety improvements to our facilities, this must be done before we look at other options.”
    The Fort Osage School District has just more than $1 million remaining from the $7.8 million bond issue approved in April 2011. The bond funded several projects throughout the district, including replacing roofs and heating and air-conditioning units at several schools.
    The district had been looking at other projects in which to fund, including renovating kitchens at all but one of the district’s elementary schools.
    While this is still a possibility, in the aftermath of the Connecticut shootings, Enderle said that has been put on hold in an effort to determine if school security needs to be improved at any one of the district’s buildings. In addition, the purchase of Chrome book laptop computers for next year’s seventh graders, which would have been the start of the much talked about one-to-one initiative, has been halted for the time being.
    “Sadly, we can’t spend or plan our way to a solution. Absent armed guards in front of every classroom door, which would also come at a cost – and I don’t mean just financial – there is no one best route,” he said. “This is an issue in which schools will have take a multifaceted approach. Though we can never make our facilities completely safe, we can always improve their level of safety. But we need to spend as much time fixing our society as we do our buildings. There is no one cause for the this problem, but among other things, the mixture of a culture that glorifies violence – video games, movies, TV, etc. – has reduced its support for treating mental illness and allows easy access to weapons is simply a societal Molotov cocktail that has unfortunately exploded too often lately.”
    Among the security options that Fort Osage is considering is a buzz-in system at all or some of the buildings, additional office and security staff, updating security cameras and replacing locks. Other ideas include placing an increased emphasis on bully prevention, increasing awareness of possible warning signs students might be sharing with their peers or friends, increasing communication with local law enforcement and increasing the presence of community volunteers.
    District staff is also reviewing best practices for dealing with an intruder. Enderle said the thought up until now has been to go into a lockdown mode if an intruder enters the building and wait for law enforcement officials. However, he said, there is another thought that perhaps running at the first opportunity is a better direction to go.
    Page 2 of 2 - The problem is, Enderle said, there is no way to know for certain what the best choice will be because no two intruders are the same.
    “Ideally, given the common traits some of these killers have had, it would seem something must done to help all of our students feel connected to the world around them,” Enderle said. “It seems apparent to me that people who are capable of this kind of murderous act have lost all ability to empathize with others and feel disconnected from the world at large. Is that up to the schools to fix? Parents? Society in general? I think we all need to play a part.”

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