Local schools comply with 911 rules but still see room to improve safety

In February, the news of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where a gunman shot and killed 14 students and three staff members in Parkland, Fla., rocked national news. A few days later, a foiled school shooting plot in Fair Haven brought the fear closer to home for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

He ordered school security assessments for every school in the state and asked for $5 million in grant money to be put aside for school safety updates.

Assessments at Champlain Valley School District schools were completed and state officials are reviewing the results.

Part of the study asked Vermont Enhanced 911 Board how many Vermont schools were compliant with emergency standards. That means that when someone dials 911 from a landline phone in a school it tells operators from what room and floor the person is calling.

Only one-third of Vermont schools are E911 compliant, reported Barbara Neal, the director of the E911 board.

All Champlain Valley School District schools were found to be E911 compliant, Superintendent Elaine Pinckey told the school board at its last meeting.

The governor’s memo on school safety also specifies: “In addition to and in conjunction with the school security assessments, the Governor’s plan also calls for grant funding in the amount of $5M be made available to schools to be used for security infrastructure upgrades and school safety planning designed to enhance the capacity of school districts to maintain safe schools.”

Applications for grants from the state to update safety infrastructure at schools will be accepted starting June 1. Schools will have until July 1 to apply for grants. Administrators at all Champlain Valley schools are scheduled to talk about their lists of safety upgrades in May to prioritize projects for grant applications, said Jeanne Jensen, the district’s chief operations officer.

School resource officer
“Even before we started the conversation as a result of all of these things that were happening in the world, Adam had been talking to Jeanne and I about a school resource officer for CVU because he had a really good experience at Montpelier High School,” Pinckey said.

CVU Principal Adam Bunting previously was principal at Montpelier High School where he worked with a school resource officer.

The officer “became a very valuable member of our leadership team in the school and was a huge resource for students,” Bunting said.

“I keep coming back the the question: Have I, have we taken the reasonable steps to put up the impediments to someone who would be thinking of doing our students harm?”

The board decided at the April 17 meeting to discuss adding the position of a school resource officer at their May 15 meeting. In the meantime, Bunting and Jensen will put together a plan of how a resource officer would work in the district. For example, would the person be a police officer from a local police department, and would he or she also spend time at the community schools in the district?

The student representatives on the board said they would discuss the idea with student council to seek input on what students would want from a school resource officer, and share that feedback at the next meeting as well.

The potential resource officer would be hired by district administrators hopefully in time for the next school year.

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