As security deliberations continue in the Scarsdale School District, neighboring Edgemont has laid out a plan for security upgrades in its own district.
According to Superintendent Victoria Kniewel, the district has been “collaborating with law enforcement and other experts in the field, and listening to our parents and guardians and faculty and staff” to gain insight into how to improve safety and security.
Kniewel said meetings with law enforcement and community members began when she took over as head administrator in 2013.
One of the first orders of business was to install new key card activated doors and windows at each of the eight buildings on the Edgemont Junior-Senior High School campus. The district installed most of the doors and windows over the summer, but construction on the administration building wasn’t completed until fall.
Students, faculty and staff are allowed access to the buildings by swiping their district identification cards, which they are required to carry while on school grounds.
The district has also installed exterior security cameras throughout campus.
The security cameras, key card system, doors and windows are a part of a $12.8 million bond approved by voters June 2014. The bond also covered new doors and windows at Greenville Elementary School.
The district, through a contract with Hartsdale-based Summit Security, has also hired two full-time, unarmed security monitors, Dawn Fitzsimmons and Kevin Benson. Each will have different responsibilities — one moving throughout the building during the school day and the other moving throughout the junior/senior high school campus — and both will work only when school is in session.
At Seely Place and Greenville elementary schools, the district will build security vestibules. The vestibules will facilitate item drop-offs for students without the need for parents or guardians to enter the buildings. However, the district will continue to allow visitors if they have a scheduled appointment at the schools.
Kniewel said the vestibules, which will cost the district $124,722, will be installed during the February 2019 school break.
She said the idea of the vestibules came from meetings with parents during the 2018-19 budget process last March. The expense for the vestibules was split between the 2017-18 budget and the 2018-19 budget.
Another initiative is new oversight for the pick up and drop off of students, a measure for which the district is asking for parents’ cooperation. Specifically, Kniewel is asking visitors to drive slowly through the parking lot and surrounding streets, respecting directions from the parking lot supervisors.
Kniewel also asks that parents aid in the district’s commitment to security.
“Always make the main office of every school your first stop,” the superintendent wrote in a note to parents in October. “Obtain a visitor’s pass, should you need one, and display it clearly throughout your stay.”
Kniewel also reminded parents and guardians to follow the procedures for picking up their children early. According to district guidelines, parents and guardians must visit the main office and wait for their child to come, or be brought, to the main office to meet them.
Elementary school parents must call the main office in advance.
“The safety of students, staff and visitors is the school district’s highest priority,” Edgemont Board of Education president Jon Faust told The Inquirer. “Every day we work to make sure that everyone on campus actually is safe, and feels safe. We continue to invest in improvements to the security of each building’s physical plant and have an effective operational safety plan that we regularly review and update.” The district sends its safety plans to New York State Department of Education and shares them with local first responders.
Faust also said the safety and security of students within the district is about more than just infrastructure and safety procedures.
“We also work very hard to engage with our students, so that no one feels isolated or alienated by ‘falling through the cracks,’” said Faust. “We do all this while working very, very closely with our local emergency services professionals — police and fire — who are generous with their time and advice.”
Kniewel echoed Faust’s thoughts, emphasizing that student well being is of the utmost importance.
“Focusing on the social and emotional wellness programs and students support — that’s No. 1 in terms of safety,” Kniewel said. “Just paying attention to and understanding our students — that’s something we do really well because we are [a] small [district]. The counselors know the students and we are getting them what they need.”
Community members can provide input on facilities upgrades Jan 8. during the district’s board of education meeting on the 2019-20 facilities budget.