Following last year’s Sandy Hook school shooting, Octorara School Board members have been engaged in a protracted conversation about school safety and campus security.
Since January, the conversation has been centered on a safe schools state grant that offered funding for hiring an armed guard to patrol district hallways and parking lots. The total funds offered by the grant was approximately $10,000 this year and $20,000 next year.
At the Board’s April work session, following prolonged discussion spanning several board sessions, board members decided in a 5-4 vote to decline the grant funds and not hire an armed guard for the campus.
This decision did not end the conversation. On the contrary, school board members continue to look for community feedback and more information to help them arrive at a unified position on the topic of school security.
In April, district administrators sent a survey to all parents that asked one key question,
“Do you support the additional cost of and presence of an armed officer with appropriate training and experience to be on the Octorara Area School District campus while students are in school?”
This survey was only sent to parents. There were optional questions on general safety concerns that many respondents answered. We will share the results of this survey at a “Community Conversation on Safety” scheduled for Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in the High School cafeteria.
The community conversation will be facilitated by the Chester County 20/20 organization based in West Chester and follow the this format
- Organize participants into diverse groupings of 8-10 people including parents, students, and teachers and will be facilitated by Chester County 20/20 facilitators, District administrators, and Board Directors.
- The groups will name the issues related to safety, organize the issues, rate the issues, brainstorm solutions for the issues.
- This body of work will be condensed to a report for to the school board to utilize in their decision making.
Because of space restraints there will be a maximum of 120 parents invited to participate the district intends to use a lottery system if over 120 parents express interest in participating. Parents were contacted last week to confirm their interest in participating in the conversation.
Parent participation will be confirmed by Monday, May 5. 2014 via email. Additionally, the list of participants will be posted on the District website by this date as well.
Those interested in participating in the Community Conversation on May 8th should call Jill Hardy at 610.593.8283 on Monday morning.
Note: Superintendent Dr. Thomas Newcome contributed to this post.