Local officials, safety forces collaborating on long-term safety plan for Stow schools

by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter Published:

While local officials evaluate the school district's safety procedures, the consensus among both cities is to work toward a revamped, comprehensive security plan that is both viable and financially sustainable.

"The School Board is committed to making sure we have a security presence in our buildings throughout the end of the school year, and we're going to make that happen no matter what it takes," said Dr. Russ Jones, superintendent of Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools. "And then we'll have summer to work on a long-range plan."

Jones said school staff, police and administrations in both Stow and Munroe Falls will be collaborating on the new safety plan throughout the rest of the current school year while the district pays off-duty officers for extra security.

"Our most immediate goal is to reassure the students, reassure the families and make sure that there's a presence of police in all the schools to get through the short term," said Stow Mayor Sara Drew. "This is going to be both a short term and long term process to solve what we have started to identify as the changing needs and priorities for security."

The ultimate goal, he said, is to have a new security plan in place by the 2013-14 academic year.

"But you can bet when we come back in August, we'll have this plan in place if nothing else is reached," said Jones.

Stow Police Chief Louis Dirker and Munroe Falls Police Chief Richard Meyers said it's too soon to determine what that plan may look like, though, as multiple issues are weighed.

"We're all committed to having a heightened sense of security in the schools," Dirker said, "it's just a matter of what options we want to take."

For police, how many officers should patrol the schools, the frequency of those patrols, issues with staffing and the financial viability of all those options are among the slew of factors that need considered, Meyers noted.

"It all comes down to manpower issues," Dirker added. "We can't take officers currently working on patrols and put them in the schools."

"We truly do not have enough police officers on any given shift to staff every single school," said Drew.

At the schools, Jones said discussions about furthering crisis training (which includes Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter and Evacuation training, otherwise known as ALICE) for staff and how outside visitors are treated in school buildings are among the issues the district will evaluate.

"There is no perfect solution," he said. "But my goal is that anybody who has the idea of entering our buildings will be confronted immediately by a trained officer of the law and that, combined with our safety training, will make our buildings as safe as they possibly can be."

Both Drew and Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson said the community at large will be engaged in the ongoing discussions about school safety plans.

If an immediate threat were posed at any school in the district, Dirker explained, police are trained in various crisis-response plans, including rapid-deployment and immediate-action procedures.

He noted that the high school and junior high school both have their own armed school resources officers, while the elementary schools have a DARE officer, whose office is actually at the high school.

Dirker noted that most recently, officers have been trained in the use of semi-automatic AR-15 weapons, which are now carried in each cruiser.

Both Stow and Munroe Falls departments, which would response to a crisis collaboratively, can also solicit assistance from neighboring safety forces because of mutual aid agreements. The Summit County Special Weapons and Tactics team is also available for support.

"We have a lot of resources at our disposal," he said.

Email: jnobile@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179

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