February 13, 2013
Homer increasing school safety
Committee calls for evacuation drills and changes to district’s video system
HOMER — The school district’s Safety Committee presented a report to the Board of Education at its Tuesday evening meeting, recommending the district connect its digital video recorders to law enforcement, hold evacuation drills next school year and provide a way for students to attend music lessons without exiting the high school building.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Homer’s Safety Committee, which typically meets three times a year, was called together and met four times in the month of January, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio said.
The committee said the district’s seven digital video recorders that are connected to security cameras should be connected to a central server that can be accessed remotely, providing law enforcement access to videos, said Laird Updyke, superintendent of buildings and grounds.
Also recommended were evacuation drills for the fall of 2013 that would include taking the students off campus, Updyke said.
The district has already begun mandatory fire and safety drills, Ruscio said.
Adding a locked door to building hallways that can only be opened by the security offices, upgrading the public announcement system to allow addresses to be made from any telephone using an authorization code and providing the front office staff with Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES security training were also suggested.
Pat Quinn, a father of a Homer elementary school student and a member of the safety committee, told the board how relieved he was that the school’s resource officer, Mike Howell, was at the school to greet his son on the Monday after the Newtown shooting.
Howell, a village of Homer police officer, has handled 31 school-related cases since the fall, resulting in five adult arrests and three juvenile petitions to Family Court, Quinn said.
The cases Howell has handled include an assault, order of protection violations and missing child cases, he said.
The district and the village have budgeted to continue the school resource officer position through next school year and are seeking additional funds for another school resource officer in the district, Quinn said.
Howell’s position was funded by a $50,000 special legislative grant facilitated by state Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford). Howell works in all buildings.
How the additional officer would be utilized is not yet decided, Howell said in a phone interview today, but the officer might work after school while practices and games are going on and Howell is no longer working, or the additional officer might work in the intermediate school when Howell is working in the high school, and vice versa.
A security check-in system recommended by the board at its Jan. 22 meeting has been ordered and is expected to be implemented in mid-March, Updyke said.
The system will create identification tags from visitors’ driver’s licenses, screens visitors against a sex offender registry and check for restraining orders and child custody status.
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