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North Allegheny outlines efforts to keep its schools safe

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 12:45 p.m.
North Allegheny Superintendent Robert Scherrer moderates a school safety and security program at Marshall Middle School on Monday, March 5, 2018. While the bulk of the information presented was about what already is in place, he said additional measures are being considered by district officials.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny Superintendent Robert Scherrer moderates a school safety and security program at Marshall Middle School on Monday, March 5, 2018. While the bulk of the information presented was about what already is in place, he said additional measures are being considered by district officials.
A poster urging vigilance was placed at the entrance of the auditorium at North Allegheny's Marshall Middle School on March 5, 2018. A program was held that night to outline the district's approach to keeping schools safe.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
A poster urging vigilance was placed at the entrance of the auditorium at North Allegheny's Marshall Middle School on March 5, 2018. A program was held that night to outline the district's approach to keeping schools safe.
Some 400 people turned out for a program about school safety and security at Marshall Middle School on March 5, 2018.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
Some 400 people turned out for a program about school safety and security at Marshall Middle School on March 5, 2018.

The recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida may have prompted North Allegheny's safety and security information meeting March 5, but the outline of measures already in place to keep kids safe — and some that might be taken in the future — were initiated in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Superintendent Robert Scherrer, moderator for the March 5 program at Marshall Middle, said while it is the job of administrators and staff to keep students safe, many also have a personal stake.

“I have two students in the district,” Scherrer said. “Both of our assistant superintendents have two students in the district, and many of our staff members at NA have children attending school in one of our 12 buildings. While ensuring safety is vital to our daily responsibilities, it is also very personal.”

The presentation , which drew more than 400 people, noted that a district-wide vulnerability analysis was completed by an outside security company in 2013 and contained a myriad of recommendations to make it more difficult for perpetrators to enter school buildings.

Changes that have been implemented include:

• Use of a single entrance to buildings during school day.

• Doors that must be unlocked remotely along with a “captured vestibule” for visitors to wait until they are granted access.

• Requiring visitors to provide an official identification that is checked against the National Sex Offender Database.

• Installation of a card-key access system that tracks staff when they enter buildings.

• Modifications to interior doors so they can be locked from the inside to prevent entry.

• Panic alarms placed in strategic locations to notify police, staff and administrators.

• Installation of security cameras linked to local police stations that can be viewed in patrol vehicles.

• Additional staff assigned to monitor students entering buildings in the morning.

Scherrer noted that “prior to the (2013) vulnerability analysis, you could walk in and out of any one of our school buildings.”

NA has spent an estimated $2 million during the past five years to improve security in its buildings, he said.

One of the guest speakers at the event was security expert Sam Rosenberg, who was hired as a consultant by the district in 2014 to provide crisis management and “active shooter” training for administrators, teachers and staff.

Rosenberg's focus has been to “empower” the district's staff by providing them with tools to spot potential threats along with training to increase the likelihood they will be able to act, rather than freeze, during an emergency.

“The problem is, everybody's saying ‘if you see something, say something,' ” he said. “But nobody is telling you what the hell to look for.”The presentation also included detailed information about the district's efforts to monitor the social climate in its schools, the resources available to students through its counseling department and the partnership the district has developed with local law enforcement.

Despite the resources and effort committed to ensuring the safety of the district's students and staff, Scherrer said additional measures are being considered.

“We will continue to evaluate all of the processes and procedures we currently have in place,” he said. “And we will explore other opportunities that may fit well at North Allegheny.”

Some of the measures being considered include adding school resource officers, increasing the level of staff training, installation of metal detectors and increasing mental health resources, the superintendent said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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