The 'New Normal:' D161 on School Security

The district superintendent and school board discussed how best to keep Summit Hill students safe at a board meeting Wednesday.

Only a few weeks after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Summit Hill School District 161 Board of Education discussed the district’s Safe Schools Program at a meeting Wednesday evening.

“It made it just more obvious that we need to put something more in place,” said Board President Mary Kenny, in a follow up interview with Patch.

Superintendent Barb Rains is currently in the process of collecting information, suggestions and parent input concerning school safety.

Rains met with the Tinley Park Police Department in December -- the same month that two escaped convicts were seen in Tinley Park and the father of three district students was charged with the murder of their mother.

She spoke with the police about the need for timely communication between the school district and police department, she said in an email to Patch.

The district will host two parent coffee meetings about school safety in the near future, during which parents will have the opportunity to share their suggestions for improving safety practices at Summit Hill.

The first meeting, for parents of students in grades K-4, will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 14 in the district office. The second will be for parents of older students and will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 15, also at the district office.

The suggestions collected at these meetings will be evaluated for presentation at the district’s annual meeting with first responders on Jan. 17.

Kenny told Patch that the district is considering installing a second security buzzer in all school entry areas as an added precaution. Currently, visitors must be buzzed into the main office of any district building after entering through a vestibule. The proposed additional buzzer would require visitors to be approved for entry a second time before exiting the office and entering the portion of the school used by students.

The addition of a second buzzer in each school would not be expensive, Kenny said, because the security system is already installed in district buildings.

“Our ‘new normal’ has come,” said Rains, in reference to the district’s current school security measures.

Rains also addressed the district’s need for new emergency notification software at Wednesday’s meeting. She said that the district’s current software requires school administrators to send notifications from a computer, but that a new system could allow district officials to issue notifications via phone and to send messages to specific groups.

The new system would cost the district approximately $5,100.

“Our parents are demanding immediate communication,” said Rains. “Especially when we’re in an emergency situation.”

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Spring 2013 January 11, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Still no plan in place? This had been a issue that Rains has ignored for too long. Why invite parents for coffee? Are they experts in school safety!? Also, Kenny says above the security system is already installed in district buildings. Buzzers are NOT security systems. Cameras are. So glad Kenny is out soon. Maybe something will finally get done about this safety issues that they have ignored for years!
Anna Schier (Editor) January 11, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Hi Spring 2013, I just wanted to clarify a couple things. The district has had a safety plan in place since 1999. It is evaluated on a yearly basis, and that's what the board was discussing Wednesday night. Also, it was my choice to use the phrase "security systems" when paraphrasing Kenny's quote -- I'm not certain that that was the exact phrase that she used. Thank you for reading Patch, Anna


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