Bellefonte school district talks safety

jvanderk@centredaily.comMarch 27, 2013 

— As part of the arsenal of safety measures in the works in the Bellefonte Area School District this year, all six schools will go through lockdown drills with police Wednesday.

A building lockdown could take place in the event of an intruder, a shooting or some other emergency.

“The state requires that every month we do a fire drill,” said Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger following Tuesday’s school board meeting. It doesn’t require lockdown drills, but the district will start holding those monthly as well.

As part of Wednesday’s drill, teachers and staff will receive training on safety protocols that will not be made public.

Also Tuesday, Potteiger updated the board on a list of more than $82,000 in safety measures she wants to see in place across the district by the start of the next school year. Some of those, like retrofitting building entryways with windows so staff can see and speak to visitors, will be installed after school is out for the summer.

Others are in progress, including the School Gate Guardian system. Any visitors, including school occupational and other therapists, who enter the schools will provide their driver’s licenses, and the system will check sex offender and other databases to notify school staff of any red flags.

Building doors also will have identification badge swipe systems, interior cameras will be installed, and classroom and other directional signage will be put in place.

A final safety update was related to the way Bellefonte handles weather that could delay or cancel school. As snow fell Monday morning, Bellefonte and others called for a two-hour delay, later closing school entirely.

Potteiger explained the process for the benefit of the board and the public, noting the district works with the Bald Eagle, Penns Valley and State College area districts, and the Keystone Central district to determine delays and closures.

She said the phone calls start at 4 a.m. after districts have received days of weather alerts.

“Since the groundhog can’t do it, we’re not good at it either,” she said, referencing the recent backlash against Punxsutawney Phil’s February prediction that spring was near.

Potteiger explained that administrators and road workers from the districts hold a conference call to determine how to handle a weather situation, deciding as a group.

“Are we always right? No,” she said. “We worry about our students’ safety. We have a lot of back roads that don’t get treated. There’s a lot of people involved and it depends on all of us working together.”

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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