Tony Barron told the Lawrence school board on Monday that school security has been the focus of his work as executive director of district facilities and operations since last month’s deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The work has included a lot of brainstorming of how the district could make its schools more secure, Barron said before he and Ron May, district operations director, shared a list of 16 security enhancement suggestions for the board to consider. Barron said cost estimates had not been developed for any of the suggestions. Some of the ideas are already being acted upon; others will require board approval.
“This is planning and consideration,” he said. “We’ve been throwing a lot of stuff out there. We just wanted to get in front of you, so you could guide us. We can never do enough, so we need to find that right balance that you are comfortable with.”
One idea already initiated is the twice-yearly meetings of district facilities staff, building principals, school resource officers and members of the Lawrence Police Department. Barron said there had already been one meeting of the group. The goal is to familiarize law enforcement with district buildings and district staff with the police department’s response procedures.
The district took action Monday on another idea with the requirement that Boys and Girls Clubs use secured entrances at all elementary schools, Barron said.
Among the other considerations presented to the board were:
• Expand security staffing with personnel to work in combination with the police department and SROs. As a stopgap to filling the positions next school year, Barron said the board could contract a third-party service to provide perimeter security at Lawrence and Free State high schools through the remainder of the school year.
The board took no action on the recommendation and will not meet again until April 9. School board president Shannon Kimball said district staff had the authority to contract for the service if the cost was less than $20,000.
• The hiring of a supervisor of school safety to manage emergency operations planning, districtwide safety and the training of security officers. The safety supervisor would relieve May of his security duties. Board vice president Jessica Beeson asked that the job description be more fully fleshed out before the board considered funding the position for the 2018-2019 school year.
• Hiring evening receptionists so that secure entrances could be maintained at schools for after-school events.
“It’s definitely a conversation we are going to have,” Barron said. “I’m not saying we’re going have secure entrances 18 hours a day, but it’s something we’re going to ask — how comfortable do you feel letting people in without monitoring that activity.”
• Installing additional security cameras and creating a plan to keep them operational.
• Purchasing a two-way districtwide radio system that connects district maintenance, safety and communications staff to building administrators. Barron said it would be expensive and could be phased in over five years.
During board discussion that followed Barron’s report, Kimball said the facilities committee would look to see what has been proposed for school security for Free State High School and opportunities that the district could take advantage of during the $15.2 million upgrades to the high school from last year’s bond issue. That planning could be done upfront with the $50.8 million in upgrades to Lawrence High School, she said.
Superintendent Anna Stubblefield said district students would be excused to take part in memorials at schools at 10 a.m. Wednesday, marking the one-month commemoration of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.