Line Mountain incorporating security measures into new additions
MANDATA - Line Mountain School District will incorporate more security measures into construction projects set to take place this spring at Trevorton Elementary School and the Line Mountain Junior/Senior High School.
Superintendent Dave Campbell said he and other administrators have been meeting with state police to discuss safety in response to last month's school shooting in Connecticut, and that he is working on altering building plans to include better safety and security measures.
"We're going to be aggressive in what we're doing. We're not going to be passive," he told board members at a Jan. 8 meeting.
Campbell said this week the goal is to provide a safer environment, but also "the sense" of a safer environment.
The district also wants to expand communication during and after any incidents, educate students and staff on plans and drills and slow any intruder as much as possible by including lockdown doors and other deterrents.
Campbell is intentionally vague on details, saying safety plans will not be public knowledge, but that police have their "command ideas" in place.
Meanwhile, the district also continues to discuss the idea of armed teachers.
Elementary schools in Leck Kill and Dalmatia will close at the end of the school year, and all students in grades kindergarten through fourth will be housed at Trevorton, where an addition will be constructed this spring and summer. Also as part of the $3.4 million plan, an addition will be built to the seventh- and eighth-grade wing at the junior/senior high school in Mandata, which will house all of the district's fifth- and sixth-grade students.
In emergency situations, it would take Zerbe Township police in Trevorton only minutes to reach the elementary school, while it would take roughly 17 minutes for state police to reach the high school campus, depending on the location of cruisers at the time.
With only two district buildings in use next school year, he said Trevorton Elementary School is the easier one to adapt to security measures. There are fewer entrances for intruders and multiple floors where stairwells can be locked down, he said.
Josh Bower, project manager with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects, told the board last week Line Mountain is not alone in its discussions on security; other schools represented by the architect firm are having the same conversations, Bower said.
Campbell has previously said he supports allowing someone, including teachers and administrators, armed in the school at all times, but it's not his preference.
"If we put guns in the school, I would want them to be in the hands of professionals," Campbell told the school board last week.
If it is the board's desire to arm the educators, he said proper training must happen, and President Troy Laudenslager said it should not be advertised to the public which employees are allowed to carry guns. Following Campbell's report last week to the school board, Director Lauren Hackenburg made a motion to allow teachers and administration to be permitted to carry firearms on school property, but it was tabled to allow Solicitor Rich Roberts to research the legality of doing so. Roberts is also researching hiring armed guards as an option.
"I believe her motion was to give direction to the administration to move forward in exploring this option," Campbell said.
In a prepared statement provided Tuesday, Hackenburg discussed her motion, saying she wants district administration to designate a key person or people who are trained in firearm safety and grant them permission to carry or have access to firearms, which may or may not be kept at a designated safe place within the school.
"It is my understanding that local school boards have the right and - in the times we face I feel - obligation to pass such a resolution to take another step in assuring the safety of our children should a shooter get into the building. In so doing, Line Mountain would be armed from the inside," she said.
Hackenburg, who noted she has an ongoing list of subjects to discuss with Campbell, said she had planned to meet with him to discuss school security before the Connecticut shooting.
"The subject was actually brought up by another board member at the January public meeting and I simply weighed in with my opinion then instead," she said in an interview this week.
Taking guidance from "From Luby's To the Legislature" by Suzanna Gratia Hupp, Hackenburg said local school boards in certain states can authorize guns on the premises, particularly in rural areas where law enforcement may take an extended period of time to arrive.
"This is something that we really should be looking at. This terrible tragedy has made it now a priority for discussion. I am glad that it is being looked at," she said.
Hackenburg said she feels confident that many measures have been put in place for the students.
"We are blessed with a proactive administration who cares deeply about our students. I just feel strongly that, additionally, there should be a last resort line of defense in place so that we are completely protected from the inside," she said.
Campbell said he will continue to meet with state police and even prison experts on best practices for dealing with security in a setting with a large population.