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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Board discusses safety and maintenance

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discussions of facility maintenance and school safety dominated the Clay Community School Board monthly meeting Monday at North Clay Middle School.

The meeting was pushed back from the original Nov. 8 date after a tentative contract agreement was reached with the teacher's association.

Since the last meeting, student safety has been brought to the public's attention by the Oct. 18 drive-by shooting at Van Buren Elementary School and Monday's bomb threat at Northview High School.

Also, the board has been considering an expansive renovation plan that has stirred community support and criticism.

In preparation for renovation decisions, Tom Reberger, the corporation buildings and grounds director, and Lynn Stoelting, a school nurse at Jackson Township and Forest Park Elementary Schools and School Safety Specialist for the corporation, have been presenting the board with reports detailing the needs of the facilities to maintain a functioning and safe environment for students.

Monday night, Reberger and Stoelting's reports seemed to meld together.

Reberger had presented a 10-year plan for the use of the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to maintain the buildings in April of 2001. Using that document, and not including any needs that have been brought up since, Reberger outlined what had been done and what still needed to be done in the buildings.

He talked about the need to bring the facilities up to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, as well as the deteriorating condition of many of the facility roofs.

Estimates for roofing projects have been given for the schools with most immediate needs, ranging from $130,000 to $175,000.

"It's like a rotten tar inner tube -- you patch one place, and it keeps ripping in other places," Reberger said.

A top concern at every building, except for the recently renovated Jackson Township Elementary, was security system updates.

Because of the current CPF budget, other immediate concerns have been addressed before the costly upgrading of school security.

Dottie King added that she had a hard time imagining where the money for these concerns was going to come from.

After fixed costs are removed from the CPF, Reberger said his budget is around $500,000 per school year.

Reberger mentioned the lack of visibility from the office of most buildings, which gives visitors free rein if they do not sign in first. Creating visibility for school offices is a major project.

Also, Reberger addressed board member Len Fischer's concern that some classrooms do not have locking doors.

According to Reberger, approximately three to four classrooms in most buildings do not have locking doors. In schools like Van Buren Elementary and Forest Park Elementary doorways were left open in the masonry for heating and cooling returns when open-concept classrooms were phased out.

He estimated the installation of one ADA compliant door could cost $150-$200 per door.

Fischer was surprised at the number of missing doors and added, "If I should've been aware of that, I wasn't."

The issue of classroom doors was brought up in relation to the Van Buren shooting. Classes that took place in rooms without doors were ushered into another classroom to be locked down.

Stoelting emphasized the concerns of moving entire classes in a lockdown situation during her presentation, stating the children would be easy targets if an active shooter had entered the building.

Stoelting was visibly emotional discussing the incident at Van Buren, and said both she and Reberger have had "many sleepless nights" worrying about the safety of students.

Board member Jim Guy asked Stoelting if parents understand that improved school safety means fewer rights.

Schroeder and Jackson Township Principal Jeff Fritz have been composing a letter to parents about what they can expect when a school goes into lockdown.

Earlier in November, the school corporation held an active shooter presentation, which was scheduled before the Van Buren incident took place.

Superintendent Dan Schroeder said he took from the presentation that those who want to do harm in the buildings will find a way, but reaction and situation control are key in preventing more damage from being done.

Board president Terry Barr responded by comparing safety procedures to securing her home; if someone wants to get in, they will, but "I still lock my doors."

Stoelting and Reberger added that a drive-by shooting is an unusual concern in a rural community in comparison to situations with irate parents and other events.

"No two situations are exactly alike," Reberger said.

Emergency communication was another of Stoelting's concerns. She called for a chain of command for notifying staff, parents and school board members.

Steve Grigsby suggested touring Vigo County's mobile command unit for its school corporation as a way to organize emergency response.

All board members, except for Ted Jackson, asked questions or made suggestions or comments.

At the end of her presentation, Stoelting reminded the board that being the School Safety Specialist was not part of her job description, and she felt that she was not able to do both jobs to the best of her ability anymore.

The board thanked Stoelting and Reberger several times for the efforts that have been made to maintain and secure the buildings with the available funds and personnel.

Brian Atkinson suggested to his fellow board members that the board revisit the creation of a grant writing position, and to add School Safety officer to the position description.

He suggested that creating this position would address several of the corporation's major concerns.

Fischer added to the December agenda discussion of how to help Stoelting and the feasibility of putting classroom doors up as soon as possible. Atkinson also asked to continue the discussion of creating a new position.

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