By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
One mission of the Licking R-VIII school district is to provide a “safe environment in an ever-changing world.” The Missouri Safe School Act that passed in 1996 ensured that it applies to everyone with no allowances. Security and protection measures have required meeting the challenge of both a student and adult adaptation due to a rural lifestyle.
Persons coming and going at the campus are now identified as being staff members or as having a legitimate reason for being on the campus through a cyber security layer, via the entry lock system or window identification. The locking system is at all entries and can be secured remotely if necessary; this has required the replacement of some doors that were not mechanically adaptable. Students are not locked out during transit periods of the school day. Staff members have laminated badges that must be scanned before entry into school buildings. Alarms are in place if non-approved entry is attempted. Security vestibules are now installed for the main offices on each campus.
The cyber security layer includes computer protection, and a synchronized team effort controls accessibility to the students on campus. Elementary student parents and guardians have a bar code that helps expedite drop off and pick-up while in the car line that starts on Maple Avenue. Only previously authorized persons may pick up the children. There is no admittance to the school during afternoon pick-up, 3 to 3:30 p.m., as the school is locked down until the car line has cleared.
The entire campus is covered by video surveillance, which is accessible, on-site and remotely, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Glass at all entry points will have a ballistic laminate, which acts a barrier against window breakage. It is bullet and shatter resistant and can withstand several shots and physical removal. This prevents entry and flying glass.
Communication is key, and is possible between administration, teachers, staff and support personnel at any given time, especially between Superintendent Telena Haneline and School Protection Officer Jeff Kinder, with de-escalation of any situation being their first priority.
A crisis plan is in place that will assist with reunification of parents/guardians and children in the case of a crisis situation taking place at the school.
The SPO position filled by Kinder is relatively new. He has accreditation from the State of Missouri. Having an officer on the property enhances security and Kinder utilizes the same criteria and equipment, including continuing education and firearm protection, as he did while a Missouri State Highway Patrolman. He is firearm certified quarterly and participates in active threat training through the patrol.
Prior to the school session Kinder provided active shooter training to staff members. This training helped staff to differentiate between situations that may be presented. The training included teaching teachers how best to protect the students, emphasizing awareness, mental focus and the use of their best judgment. The training will be ongoing, and while an active shooter situation may be the most frightening, tornado, earthquake, fire and severe weather drills were also practiced. These drills will be done with the students’ participation in the near future.
“The ultimate goal is to allow our students to engage in positive learning in a welcoming, inviting school environment, with safety being the number one priority,” said Haneline. “We always strive for excellence. The success of your school equals the success of your community.”
Helping significantly with the funding was a Safety Grant through the State of Missouri for $150,000. The grant was pursued and accepted with the assistance of former Superintendent Cristina Wright, District Safety Coordinator and LHS Principal Dr. Jarad Rinne, and SPO Jeff Kinder. Wright and Kinder helped in identifying the specific needs and worked with the school board, appropriating the funds while being fiscally responsible in meeting the needs.
“I applaud the efforts of Kinder, Rinne and Wright,” said Superintendent Telena Haneline, who fully supports the updates that have been accomplished.
Due to the open campus and the vintage buildings, safety and security were a challenge. The buildings were maintained, but their age and sizing changes of building materials over time meant an increase in cost. ESSR funds were used for maintenance prior to the Safety Grant.
Haneline, with Rinne and Kinder, proceeds with the work by her participation in the application for additional funding of up to $100,000 through the same Safety Grant. This grant will be announced September 29, and if given will result in a continuation of the work done by the first grant and will also include additional fencing in designated areas, adding yet another layer of security.