In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week, St. Marys Area School District Superintendent G. Brian Toth sent a statement to the press outlining the district’s approach to mental health and school safety.
“We mourn the loss of lives from another school shooting. Unfortunately, there is no one vaccine that will completely make any school immune from such a tragedy,” he said.
Toth said in his statement that administrators, teachers and counselors at all district levels are trained to monitor students who may need support. The St. Marys middle and high schools both have school-based counseling programs through Cen-Clear, as does South St. Marys Street Elementary School.
Fox Township and Bennets Valley Elementary Schools have two student support counselors through the Dickinson Center, he said.
When it comes to security, Toth said the district employs two armed security officers with access to 89 security cameras throughout the district. The district also is able to share 3D maps of all its buildings and its crisis plan with Pennsylvania State Police.
Toth also said that all district buildings have only a single point of entry and exit. Most important, Toth said, was that the district tries to foster positive relationships between students, faculty and staff.
Clearfield Area School District, released an open letter on safety this week explaining its safety strategy and efforts in the wake of the mass shooting in Florida.
In the letter, Superintendent Terry Struble he explained its staff is currently trained in ALICE, which is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. ALICE was a training and change in approach to what was traditionally the old format of lock down and hide in your classroom, Struble explained.
In the fall, staff worked through several emergency situations, including an intruder incident, and made it more challenging by eliminating the administrators from the solutions so teachers could learn how to problem solve.
This summer additional training is planned that “trains the trainer,” who will then come back and re-train staff.
“It is evident though from communications today (Feb. 19), that not all teachers have shared what should be done in their classrooms if a situation arose,” Struble wrote. “This is something that needs to be done and will be done in an appropriate manner across the grade levels.”
In light of Florida, many parents have contacted the district, asking about reunification.
Struble said if students can stay on site, arrangements would be made to either bus home, or to have parents come to the site to pick up. In the worst case scenarios, students would be moved to an alternate locations and plans would be made to return students to their parents. Those directions would be made known via phone calls, e-mails, text, web site, social media and the radio and TV as needed. We will get the information to you.
“The national stage will continue to debate all kinds of topics, but in the end, we need to watch out for all children. Not only ours, but the ones that make up our community. Are there concerns that no one seems to be doing something about? Is the child left alone or ignored by family, peers, and neighbors? We probably all need to do a better job of helping the next generation grow. Until we are alert to our kids and their concerns, while being an active part of their lives, challenges will remain,” said Struble, who added that in the days ahead it will continue to assess how processes can be improved.