Residents address Mathews officials about school safety

VIENNA — Mathews Local School District officials told concerned parents, staff and residents they are doing whatever they can to make sure the district’s three buildings are as safe as possible, but noted older buildings do not have the same up-to-date security systems and safety designs as newer ones.

Superintendent Lew Lowery told about 15 residents and staff Wednesday at the Mathews Board of Education meeting that an advisory committee on school safety has been formed that includes safety personnel from Vienna and Fowler. He said even before the shooting incident at a Florida high school last month, the committee was already planned to address ways to enhance school safety.

Lowery said the district has emergency plans in place in case of a shooting or other event and staff have undergone ALICE training in case of an intruder.

Officials said because the high school is 100 years old and Currie and Baker were both constructed in the 1960s, there is not a secure entrance like there is in newer schools.

“We have a buzzer system and the secretary can see who it is and let them in. In the newer buildings when you are buzzed in you go next to an atrium area and into the office before you get into the school,” Lowery said.

He said the Trumbull Career and Technical Center has such as system and also a machine that checks driver’s licenses to see if there is any criminal record.

Mathews parent Jessica Licata said she is concerned that entrance areas to the schools are all glass doors.

Baker Elementary staff member LeeAnn Sena said her concern is the hollow wooden classroom doors with glass panels that someone could easily get into and suggested replacing the doors if possible.

Officials did note there are bolo sticks that keep the doors from being opened.

“Our buildings were designed in the 1960s at a time when things aren’t what they are today… I know the schools can’t solve all the problems, but we can try to address some things,” said Currie staff member Carla Pacileo.

Board President Tarin Brown said if the district were able to get a new school complex, the newer security system and entrance safety areas would be in place.

Attempts to get a bond issue passed for a new school complex have been defeated several times.

“We are between a rock and a hard place and trying to do the best we are able to for the safety of the students and the staff. Safety is always a main concern,” he said.

Lowery said that while the district does have a DARE police officer who comes into the buildings to speak with students, there is not a designated officer at all times.

Resident Janice Thomas asked if there is any way an officer could be in the school to provide more security.

Lori Haynie, a teacher and parent, suggested training for students to help them understand what and when it is appropriate to be texting on cellphones during lockdowns so as to not create a panic for family members.

She said with Facebook and texting, misinformation often gets out.

“Within seconds of a lockdown, it is out there everywhere,” she said.

Lowery said in Austintown, several parents last week heard of a lockdown and came to the school, which resulted in more problems and the arrest of two adults.