Pencils — check. Pens — check. Notebooks — check. Calculators — check. Bulletproof backpacks — What?
Yes, there are communities where parents in search of school supplies for the upcoming semester are purchasing bulletproof backpacks.
But that’s not needed here and it’s not because administrators, teachers and school board members are hiding their heads in the sand about safety in this increasingly violent world.
It’s due to a combination of factors that are unique to Shelter Island, according to Superintendent Brian Doelger.
There are protocols and infrastructure in place to make school a safe place, he said. The district has 42 cameras installed throughout the building and around the campus. More will be up and running within the next few weeks, Mr. Doelger said. Special surfaces on first floor windows deter easy entry by anyone trying to enter the building illegally. A sign-in system at the entry was installed and requires that guests produce identification.
Eight times a year, there are lockdown drills to teach students and staff where to go and how to behave in the event of a threatening situation.
Suffolk County implemented a “RAVE Panic Button” system that is operable from mobile smartphones, allowing users to instantly notify police of emergencies.
There’s also better key control for the building than in the past and new locks on doors at the FIT Center, Mr. Doelger said.
Cameras and vehicle registration plate readers are installed at South Ferry and will soon be operational at North Ferry, adding another level of safety on the Island.
These precautionary steps are important to protecting students and staff, but Mr. Doelger believes the best tools that make the small Island school special are the people — residents, teachers, administrators, business operators and police — all of whom contribute to the volume of knowledge that helps avoid problems.
He pointed to the reality that in a small community, those who might be troubled have a wide range of resources. Interactions between the school and family members is constantly encouraged. Besides access to a school social worker and psychologist, students have many mentors among faculty members and staff, so whenever they might be troubled, they have people to whom they can turn for advice or assistance.
Shelter Island Police Department officers have ongoing relationships with students. Chief Jim Read is often at the school, not to lecture, but to spend time with students and staff.
Police in the community probably know the students as well as the teachers and staff do, Mr. Doelger said.
The relationships with police officers are a natural outgrowth of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) for elementary students. Officer Anthony Rando leads the program that was once taught by Chief Read, so the importance of building relationships is understood and encouraged from the top of the department.
Police officers have regular lunches with groups of students.
“No one here slips through the cracks,” Mr. Doelger said. “As a community, we have to make it a place where kids love to come to school and feel safe.”