Shelter Island School taking security seriously

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott greeting students filing into school.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott greeting students filing into school.

The shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and six adults on December 14, 2012 shook the nation.

Other gun-realted horrors have been revisited on campuses and other sites since then. One affect of the shootings has been the need to re-examine and shore up security measures.

Shelter Island Board of Education member Elizabeth Melichar at Monday night’s meeting applauded efforts underway on the Island, saying she had relatives at Sandy Hook and was relieved that her own district was taking important steps to improve security.

Ms. Melichar had a nephew at the middle school and a niece in high school. Early reports of what was happening in Newtown didn’t make clear whether those students were safe. While she was able to eventually find out that her sister-in-law had picked up her nephew, her niece was still missing, she remembered. It took awhile before she learned her niece was still in lockdown at the high school.

“The panic of not knowing if everybody is okay” is frightening, she said.

And even when she knew her family members were physically safe, she knew the trauma of what had happened would affect them. They were old enough to ask why, but no one really has answers to that question, Ms. Melichar said,

She recommended viewing a Suffolk County Police video describing ways to keep children and staff safe in the event of an emergency, saying that knowing how to respond within 10 to 30 seconds “saves lives.”

As an Eastern Suffolk BOCES employee, she viewed the police video as part of the training offered by BOCES security specialist Lou DiPalma.

As director of athletics and in charge of personnel issues, Todd Gulluscio outlined measures already taken and some in the pipeline to secure the school. These measures came from BOCES experts visiting the campus and reviewing ways to improve safety.

Among steps in place and those in the works, include:
• Locked doors throughout the building with access through the front entrance by being buzzed into the building by an attendant at the front desk
• Having visitors leave a photo ID with the attendant
• Accompanying visitors to their destinations within the building
• Implementing a key card system and changes to doors leading to the gym and FIT Center
• Providing video surveillance of the lobby, hallways and all entrances
• Providing IDs to all district employees
• Adding more chaperones for after-school events

“We’re on our way to a more secure building,” Mr. Gulluscio said, noting that the cost of many of the changes will be reimbursed so they won’t add to the district’s spending.

The new procedures aren’t meant to be “alarming,” Ms. Melichar said. But must be implemented.