OLEAN — The Olean City School District is continuing to review possible new safety measures in light of recent school shootings across the country, according to officials at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
OCSD Superintendent Rick Moore said the Buildings and Ground Committee discussed metal detectors, biometric screening and school resource officers at its meeting last month, and the district as a whole is reviewing mental health training like how to identify students who are in distress.
“We’re moving forward on those issues,” he told the board.
The district held a school safety forum in March after February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead.
One of several ideas voiced by employees and community members in attendance was possibly adding another SRO. The district currently has just one, Olean Police Officer Dan McGraw, who spends most of his time at Olean High School. A petition signed by more than 40 East View Elementary School staff members has also asked the board to fund additional SROs next school year.
When the board asked Moore for an update on the possibility of adding another SRO, Moore said he is working with the city and Olean Mayor Bill Aiello to move the idea forward.
“Whenever you work in those situations, it takes time,” he added.
Board member Janine Fodor said that while it’s important to have safety discussions, there also needs to be a “balance.”
“We don’t want to turn our schools into jails,” she said. “We don’t want to have so much security that we’re creating stress to kids so that it’s a detriment to safety and not advancing our safety.”
While agreeing there’s a “delicate balance between security and creating a prison atmosphere,” board member Paul Hessney noted there are security measures at other public spaces that people have come to accept.
“There’s security (at airports) that wasn’t there 20 years ago,” he said.
Moore said there’s “no one answer” to the problem, adding he’s spoken with FBI officials to see if they could visit the district to help staff identify when students are in crisis. Hessney lent his support to that idea, adding there’s “always a lot of signs” in cases of shootings perpetrated by students and former students.
“We’re taking our time,” Moore said of the district’s new safety approach, “and I think because of that we’re going to get a more balanced approach.”
THE BOARD ALSO discussed its plan for the Smart Schools Bond Act, which authorizes more than $2 billion in bonds to school districts statewide for tech upgrades.
Cso Woodworth, OCSD director of technology, reminded the board the district decided last year to modernize four pre-K classrooms and upgrade its server room with its $2.04 million bond, but that the ideas are still just in the pre-planning phase.
The plans are subject to New York State Education Department approval.
Moore said he initially didn’t think upgrading the classrooms would be possible with a $2 million bond, but that the district’s architect recently crunched the numbers and told him it was doable. Last year district officials stated that modernizing the four classrooms would cost about $500,000 each.
The district will hold a public hearing on its preliminary Smart Schools Bond Act plan on July 31.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)