Bartlesville schools focus on safety issues
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Friday, January 11, 2013
1/11/13 at 7:20 AM
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BARTLESVILLE - Bartlesville School Board member Nikki Benson was sitting in a school building office watching as some parents who came in the doors became frustrated with requests to show identification.
Benson explained to the parents why procedures have become more stringent. In the aftermath of Connecticut school shootings and an averted shooting plot at Bartlesville High, security needs have become the top priority for districts.
Benson and local administrators talked about the concerns Thursday in a Bartlesville school board discussion on school safety issues.
"We, of course, want to make our schools look friendly for our parents, but we don't want to make it look easy to come into for someone who wants to come in for the wrong reason," said Kerry Ickleberry, Bartlesville Safe and Healthy Schools coordinator.
The district is considering a permanent police officer presence in the schools, more locks on doors, fewer entryways open in buildings, more security cameras and possibly installing a visitor badge system capable of background checks.
Bartlesville Public Schools has had in place for years many safety measures including following procedures recommended by the federal Homeland Security Department.
But the district jumped into a higher gear on Dec. 13 when Bartlesville High senior Sammie Chavez was charged with plotting to kill classmates in a mass school shooting. A court hearing for him is scheduled for Friday.
The district was rattled further on Dec. 18 when two men with a rifle were spotted on school property near the senior high. After an unsuccessful search for the two men, who might have been hunting illegally nearby, the district decided to shut down classes on Dec. 19 for an early Christmas break and devote the hours while kids were out of school buildings to enhancing security.
Bartlesville Superintendent Gary Quinn said the administration likely will be bringing to the school board a list of items related to security to be placed in the next bond issue that comes before voters.
While some safety upgrades do not cost money, others do. The board will have to make some decisions on what to fund, said Quinn, who was emphatic about the need to make sure students and staff are safe.
"If a kid doesn't feel safe to come to school, he isn't going to be learning reading or math or anything else, so it's important we focus on it," Quinn said.
Quinn is among members named this week to Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb's Oklahoma Commission on School Security. Quinn said he is hopeful the state will help schools to pay for some of the security measures needed in classroom buildings.
In addition to a School Resource Officer paid for by the city of Bartlesville, the district hired for the beginning of this semester several off-duty police officers who are in each school building. The police stand guard at entryways, walk through with K-9 units and watch over the grounds as students come and go.
"I have heard a lot of good feedback from the students and teachers, and the schools just seem to feel safer with the officers on site," Ickleberry said.
Quinn said Bartlesville will have to decide how long to keep the off-duty officers on school grounds and how many to have on the payroll.
"We will have to look at that because there is a cost associated with it," Quinn said. Meanwhile, safety experts and law enforcement personnel who toured school buildings from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily during Christmas break left the district with a long list of recommendations for improving security. Safety committees in place in each school building have added to the list.
The district has started the time-consuming process of labeling 300 school building doors so that emergency responders will know exactly where to go if a crisis occurs.
Quinn and board members said the district also will be looking at after-hours events and how to control access to school facilities when there are 3,000 people at a football game or 1,500 at a basketball game.
"This will be an area we will be focused on quite a while," school board president Doug Divelbiss said. "It's just the time we live in these days."
Original Print Headline: Bartlesville focusing on school safety
Oklahoma lawmakers say they will protect 2nd Amendment. A7
Bartlesville High School, in Bartlesville. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World