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June 11, 2013
School security still priority: Changes announced Monday
Campus security continues to be at the top of the agenda at Shelter Island School in the wake of last month’s carnage at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Superintendent Michael Hynes told the Board of Education Monday night he has been meeting with Police Chief Jim Read and school administrators and faculty members, instituting several changes, including lock-down drills.
Other efforts include establishing a single entry point during the school day through the main lobby with eventual movement of the administrative and business offices to the space currently housing the library. This would make visitors avoid walking through the building to access offices in their current location in the elementary wing.
The school will require visitors to make appointments to reduce the flow of pedestrian traffic in the building during the school day, Dr. Hynes said. What’s more, during the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day, visitors will be discouraged from visiting unless they have a specific purpose, he said.
Traditionally, the campus has been open with people stopping by informally.
A new daily dismissal procedure will be established for elementary school students, he said. Parents of elementary school students can expect to receive letters this week outlining the procedures.
Last Friday, the school held a pre-announced lock down drill. Future drills won’t be announced, Dr. Hynes said. Only through such drills can an assessment be made on what’s working and what still needs tweaking to improve security, he said.
More long-term, in addition to relocating various offices and teaching rooms throughout the school, a buzzer system will be in place and an alarm system may be re-integrated, Dr. Hynes said.
Changes will also have to be instituted for after school, evening and weekend use of the building, he said. Currently, someone coming to an after school or evening event can access other parts of the building beyond where the activity is happening. But locked doors will be needed to cut off access to other parts of the building, he said. Faculty staff and substitutes will be given information about the new security procedures to assure they are being followed correctly.
With only a few months before the Board of Education must seek approval of a new budget for the 2013-14 school year, hearings will begin on Monday February 11 and continue on February 27 and March 11, all at 6:30 p.m. The so-called “2 percent” state-imposed tax cap continues in effect, but Jennifer Ditta of Cullen & Danowski, the district’s auditing firm, warned that the hike varies from the 2 percent mark for various districts based on specifics of previous budgets and spending practices. For Shelter Island, she estimated that number could be about 1.71 percent for the next budget. She also warned that funding of the retirement system could be hiked from 11.4 percent currently to 15.5 to 16.5 percent. It could be some time before that number begins to decline because it’s linked to the stockmarket and tends to lag the market’s return to health by two or three years, she said.
What’s more, health insurance costs could go up 10 to 12 percent next year, according to school business manager Kathleen Minder.
The senior trip to Orlando, Florida, from April 17 through April 21 is on, but an appeal from senior class advisor John Riordan to keep costs down by having fewer chaperones was shot down by the board after Dr. Hynes recommended not waiving the 5:1 ratio currently required. There are 19 students going on the trip and Mr. Riordan tried to make the case that many will be 18 by April and said they’re responsible students who don’t need such tight oversight.
As for trip’s cost — $1,020 per student — board member Marilynn Pysher said she was concerned about whether two seniors who opted out of the trip might see money as a stumbling block. Mr. Riordan said money had nothing to do with their decisions. And the cost includes air and ground transportation, hotel and most meals with the students needing only money for breakfast and lunch on the first day and lunch and dinner on the last day of the trip and souvenirs.
Mr. Riordan also assured the board the trip has many educational aspects, including a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.
Board president Stephen Gessner assured Mr. Riordan that the questions from the board weren’t mean to denigrate the trip, but to assure the safety of the students.