Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 21, 2017

Teaming up for safety

School districts to apply for joint security grant
By David Hotle | Feb 25, 2013
Washington High School counselor Randy Schrader checks out some of the security cameras now installed at Washington High School. A grant multiple school districts are applying for would give the district funding to upgrade the security system.

In the interest of increasing student safety throughout the county, four Washington County school districts are teaming up to request a grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation for improved security measures in buildings.

While the cost of the project has not been determined, Washington School District technology Coordinator Jeff Brock said that he is uncertain how much the grant will be for, but said that it would be “sizable” He said the improvements would include new video monitoring systems, the ability for the office of a building to “buzz people in,” and other measures that can be used in an emergency.

“I think the best part is that school districts are teaming up to make this happen,” said Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen. “Hopefully we will be able to continue to do this in the future.”

Brock said that the application is due March 15. He said that the Washington district had decided to go in with Mid-Prairie, Highland, and WACO Elementary in Crawfordsville. Jorgensen said that Keota had been approached but had opted not to be part of the group.

Jorgensen said that the project is a direct response to a recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that left 28 people dead. He said that since the incident on Dec. 14, 2012, many people in the district have approached him concerning security procedures. Jorgensen said that he had considered upgrading the district’s security system. He said that when he had spoken with Mark Schneider, superintendent of Mid-Prairie, he found out that Mid-Prairie had considered almost the exact same thing.

While Jorgensen is not certain if the additional security measures would have stopped the shootings at Sandy Hook, he said that every measure could provide one more barrier an attacker would have to go through. He said the extra time it would take an attacker to circumvent a security measure can save lives.

“Here in Washington we can have the police on the scene in a matter of minutes,” he said. “My concern is what would happen if something happened at Highland where there aren’t always police nearby.”

Jorgensen said that that people in the district had been through special training with area law enforcement to instruct teachers in how to respond to an active shooter.

The idea of arming members of the faculty had been raised, but Jorgensen said that doing so is not an option according to Iowa law. He said that having a liaison officer from local law enforcement, who would be armed, has been discussed in the past. He said even if the school board approves doing that, the officer would only be in one building at a time.

Jorgensen said that he was unsure what kind of threat the school district could face. He said that in many cases, security breaches don’t come in the form of a shooter, but in someone breaking the school rules. He said the district has to be prepared for any problems that may arise.

For many years, the school district has worked with local police to ensure security in the buildings. Police regularly conduct SWAT training in the buildings.

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