Schools start with resource officers, additional security measures in place

by Dan Holland

With the consolidation of three elementary schools in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District into one brand-new elementary school opening Sept. 6 on the Blossom Hill property along Oakes Road, the district has plans in place for a school resource officer from local police departments to be stationed at each school building.

BBHCSD Superintendent Joelle Magyar explained that the district has assigned an SRO to the high school for many years, and will expand the program for the 2022-23 school year.

Officer Jose Garcia, of the Broadview Heights Police Department, will continue to serve as the SRO at the high school, while Brecksville Police Officer Bob Maxwell will be assigned to the middle school. Long-time D.A.R.E Officer Mark Krzynowek, also of the Brecksville Police Department, will be stationed at the new elementary school.

Garcia and Krzynowek are provided at the courtesy and expense of their respective cities, while Maxwell’s position will be paid for by the school district at a cost of approximately $100,000, according to Magyar.

“At our most recent school board meeting, the board approved the memorandum of understanding that we will have in place with the city of Brecksville that outlines the working conditions and roles and responsibilities for the SRO that will be placed at the elementary school and the new position that we created at the middle school,” explained Magyar.

In addition to having had an SRO stationed at the high school for many years, an additional police presence frequently included vehicle patrols of the school grounds.

“We would have a second police officer in the parking lots just to have an extra set of eyes should anything happen during the day,” said Magyar. “And then they help out with dismissal at the end of the day getting parents and kids out safely.”

Upgraded security features

In addition to the SRO upgrades, a number of enhanced security measures will be implemented in all three buildings.

The new elementary school was designed with a three-point secure entry process that includes bulletproof film on the glass in the entry vestibule. The school clinic and parent student organization (PTO) office were intentionally located within the second security check area so that parents and visitors will not need to enter the main building area when utilizing either of the two offices.

“In addition to being thoughtful about the entry vestibule, all of the classrooms are also locked down with magnetic doors,” Magyar explained. “So, if there was an intruder in the building, there are four sets of doors – prior to them getting through a classroom door – that they would have to get through to gain access to the kids.”

Common-use areas such as art classrooms and the media center are centrally located within the building with student pods surrounding them to minimize student foot traffic in the building. Offices for services such as special education or speech therapy, as well as student restrooms, are all located within the separate grade pods.

A secure main entrance vestibule was recently installed in the middle school.

“In the past, it was easy for people to have access into the middle school,“ said Magyar. “We changed that, and spent a few hundred thousand dollars providing a secured vestibule in the middle school as one of the safety upgrades.”

The high school is equipped with a secure entry vestibule that allows visitors to enter the school office only. Changes will be coming to the “open campus” policy at the high school, which allows students to leave or make use of the grounds during the day.

“We’re changing our safety procedures next year because – due to COVID – we implemented an open campus policy at the high school where if kids had lunch or study hall, they could leave,” said Magyar. “At first, we did it due to COVID to keep exposure down so that kids could leave or be outside if they wanted to, but we didn’t necessarily have the most secure way of managing that last year. So, we have since changed our procedures at the high school as to how kids will leave the building for open campus but still have the building be secure and have a safer way to get kids in and out of the building throughout the day.”

The Brecksville and Broadview Heights police departments, along with the local SWAT team, scheduled active intruder training drills in the new elementary school during the last week of July, just prior to the school’s Aug. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to Magyar.

“Those sessions were purposefully scheduled, and we did it that way to make sure we had all the safety features in the building in place to have it be as realistic as possible,” she continued. “We have a great working relationship with our safety forces in both cities and the local SWAT team to ensure, as much as we can, that our kids are as safe as can be. This way, if we ever need to call in law enforcement, they will already have a working knowledge of the building.”