With heavy hearts still reeling from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, Cambridge-Isanti administrators outlined the district’s current safety and security measures during the school board meeting Thursday, Dec. 20.
School board members and administrators noted the district’s safety and security measures were just being reviewed the week of the Dec. 14 tragedy that took the lives of 20 young children and six adults when a gunman opened fire in the school located in Newtown, Conn.
Prior to the beginning of the meeting, Chair Gary Hawkins asked those at the meeting to observe a moment of silence in honor of those whose lives were lost.
“I want the community to know that we have already started our journey with safety,” Hawkins said. “We had just been talking about this recently just prior to the tragedy in Connecticut.”
Superintendent Bruce Novak said following the tragedy, he received emails and phone calls from community members wanting an update on the school’s current security and safety measures.
“We are constantly looking at ways to make our schools a safer and more secure environment for our students,” Novak said. “We were spending two hours during the tragedy Friday morning looking at this. We are truly working hard to create a safe environment for our students.”
Novak said safety for the district’s students and staff is a priority for the district.
“Starting Friday afternoon on Dec. 14, when we learned about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the district did its best to communicate and correspond with the community,” Novak said. “We did put an article on the website and had an article in the newspaper this past week. We did also have school counselors available for any students who may have needed them. We did meet this past week with all our local law enforcement agencies and everyone has an idea on what more could be done.”
Building and Grounds Director Mark Eisenbacher gave an overview of the
district’s safety and security measures.
The following list identifies safety and security measures that have been accomplished, systems that are in process of being phased in as budget allows or items that are being studied for future improvements to the district’s security program.
• Loading Docks—usually the most easily accessible area in schools, all school locations now have a secured entrance that remains locked at all times. Loading dock security cameras are mounted at each dock with camera screens and door release buttons located at the main office. Delivery drivers must show identification to verify identity before being allowed into the building.
• Card Access—have been adding card access to frequently used exterior doors throughout our schools. Staff has the ability to access these doors throughout the school day while keeping the exterior doors locked. Propping doors open has decreased. The only doors unlocked throughout the school day should be the main entrance doors to each facility. More card access locations will be added in future budgets.
• Security Camera Systems—camera systems are present at every school location to assist staff and law enforcement with supervision and monitoring of our facilities. More cameras will be added in the future.
• Interior Building Locks—have been changed or retrofitted to promote safer/faster lockdown response in the event of a lockdown. More interior locks will be changed in future budgets.
• Testing/Repair/Replacement of Notification Systems—to support activation/notification of emergency procedures.
• Emergency Planning Committee—has been in place to work on improvement of emergency planning protocols, refine procedures, and bring policy recommendations to the school board. This is an ongoing effort within the district.
• Planning with Local Law Enforcement Agencies—to identify priorities to address within our emergency procedures and to make sure procedures are aligned with the efforts of first responders.
• Emergency Procedure Training—to employees is being conducted at each school location. Building administrators focus on communicating expectations to staff regarding their roles/responsibilities in an emergency.
• Conducting Required Drills—as identified per Minnesota Statute, each school is required to train students and staff on emergency procedures and universal procedures— a minimum of 5 lockdowns, 5 fire drills and 1 severe weather drill annually.
• Implemented Skylert System—as a means to communicate with parents and staff members in an emergency. People may sign up to automatically receive information via voicemail or email in the event of an emergency.
• Visitor Sign in Procedure—changes were implemented in September 2012 that requires a credential check of visitors, sign in procedure and issuance of an easily identifiable visitor badge.
• Office Location Planning—Our Long Range Facilities Planning Committee has been studying the feasibility of Relocating main offices to locations that are more front and center to the main points of entry, and have been studying the need to retrofit existing offices to promote and ensure tightened visitor management at each school location.
Novak added the next time the district has a lockdown drill, it will involve members of the local police department so officers will know what to expect in the event of a school lockdown.
Novak said he recently had conversations with local legislators, Representative Brian Johnson and Senator Sean Nienow, about approving unfunded mandates for school districts.
“I asked both of them, when they sit down and have debates at the legislature, to please bring rationale and common sense to the table,” Novak said. “I asked them to please do not mandate the district to do something without providing funding for it. This has been an intense, difficult week.”
2013 school district levy decreases
Director of Finance and Operations, Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson, went through the district’s budget and levy during the Truth in Taxation portion of the meeting.
She explained the 2013 total school district levy is decreasing by $328,238 or 4 percent from 2012.
By individual funds, the district’s general fund levy will decrease by $157,741 or 8.4 percent; the community service levy will decrease by $15,137 or 4.4 percent; and the debt service levy will decrease by $155,359 or 2.6 percent.
The school district budget is set at $51,558,637 in revenues and $54,414,385 in expenses.
Vosberg-Torgerson explained property taxes make up 21.6 percent of the general fund; 4.2 percent of the community service fund; and 74.2 percent of the debt service fund.
The school board did approve the 2013 budget and levy. It also approved the fiscal year 2011-12 audit report. The district received a “clean opinion” on its basic statements and financial reporting.