Superintendent addresses school safety in wake of Uvalde tragedy

by Melissa Martin

May 25 board of education meeting

In light of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, members of the Brecksville-Broadview Heights School Board said they plan to discuss the district’s safety plan, particularly for the new elementary school, at the June board meeting.

“I just think it would be a good thing for the community to have some discussion at a board meeting,” board member Tish Kwiatkowski said. “We do have some significant safety measures that are going to be in place, and I do think it would be a good thing for the community to hear them.”

School board President Mark Dosen said the district will also address safety at the middle school, where the district recently completed the construction of a safety vestibule at the main entrance.

“A review of security measures across our entire campus would be a good thing to do at this time,” Dosen said. “It really starts to make you question your own safety procedures and whether you’re doing enough.

Superintendent Joelle Magyar reminded the board and the community that the staff and students train periodically, participating in active shooter drills to ensure they are prepared. Like all districts in the state, Brecksville-Broadview Heights is required to participate in the drills every year.

 “We know the thoughts that go through our teachers’ minds and our parents’ minds when these things happen are just horrific,” Magyar said, reassuring the board and district parents that administrators have long made the safety of students and staff its top priority.

Magyar said the administration consistently reminds staff and students of the importance of locking doors and making certain they remain that way throughout the school day.

“All of our doors are locked, we do buzz in some people,” she said. “A lot of parents have pointed out that the doors are opened when people buzz into the building, in many cases without even asking why the person is there. “We’re going to be working with our principals to say that we’ve got to be more diligent about that.

“That is the reason the district installed a secure vestibule at the middle school. Visitors are in a secure area [now] and can’t get to the kids unless they are buzzed in. They have to meet face-to-face with a receptionist who asks why they are there before they are even allowed to enter the building.”

The high school, Magyar said, is equipped with a secure vestibule that allows visitors to enter only the school office.

The district also employs a full-time school resource officer at the high school and starting in the fall, Magyar said the district will have full-time school resource officers at all three buildings.

“They will be there all day, when the staff is there and when the kids are there,” she said, noting there will also be some SRO activity during certain evening events.

Magyar said the district heard loud and clear when the new elementary school was designed that safety is always the top priority.

At the new elementary school, Magyar said the district has installed a triple point-of-entry system, which requires visitors to buzz in to access the building and buzz in again to enter a reception area to obtain a visitors pass. The receptionist will determine if the visitor is allowed access to student areas.

“Our SRO’s office is also right there next to the vestibule, so it is very clear the minute someone walks into the building that there is police presence right there,” Magyar said, noting that bullet-proof sheeting has been installed around all the entryway windows. “That was a pretty big expense to the district but very worth it.”

The bullet-proof glass at the new elementary cost approximately $18,000, she said.

Magyar said law enforcement from Brecksville and Broadview Heights will host an active intruder training event at the school on July 25 to finalize a plan of action. The local SWAT team will perform a drill to have a better understanding of the building’s flow prior to the start of school.

“If we need to make any adjustments or any additional improvements after that we still have time to prepare,” she said.

Magyar said administrators can lock down individual classrooms as well as the classroom pods, or groups of classrooms, which means intruders would not be able to reach students in their classrooms.

“There are double security measures in place to protect the students and staff if anything should happen,” she said.

Fall transportation plan

Magyar told the board the district has released information pertaining to school start times and transportation plans for the 2022-23 school year. Not only has the information been emailed to parents, it is posted on the district website.

Magyar said information will be updated and passed along to the community biweekly throughout the summer to keep plans fresh in parents’ minds. In addition to coordinating the start times for the high school and middle school, the district has also updated the way traffic will flow through campus so vehicles enter and exit at specific locations, leaving other entrances and exits exclusively for school buses.

Additional information has been presented regarding traffic flow through the district’s new elementary school.

“We have worked extensively with both of our police departments, both in Brecksville and Broadview Heights,” Magyar said. “They have had input, they have given us their opinions on how they want to see traffic flow on this campus, plus on Mill Road because we are going to be doubling the amount of traffic at given times on that road.”

Magyar said the district will also update signage in and around the school campuses to help traffic flow safely. Those signs are being crafted by Brecksville and Broadview Heights.

“We know what we do in and around these campuses will affect traffic in other locations throughout the city so they are creating signs to help [alleviate] that,” she said, adding that all traffic regulations during school will take place on a restricted basis and the times will be posted on the signs. ∞