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Springfield district prepared for emergencies

12/20/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

After taking a moment of silence to remember the lives of those lost in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, Springfield Local School District Superintendent Bill Stauffer took a few more minutes to reassure the community the district is doing all it can to prepare for such emergencies.

Stauffer stated every building in the district has a crisis plan in place for such incidents developed with the help of law enforcement officials. He said he would not provide details about the plan to “keep the information out of the hands of the bad guys.”

“This plan is reviewed and tweaked annually with staff and law enforcement,” he said. “We practice lockdown drills regularly. We use simple messages for young children to avoid scaring them. You hope you never have to use one [crisis plan] for real, but we are prepared.”

Stauffer said the district is continuing with training students and staff in A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), a program that teaches them to deal with armed intruders in a variety of ways, such as leaving an area through a window by breaking it and throwing things at the intruder to distract him or her, instead of hiding in a closed area or under desks, which some officials believe makes them easy targets.

Other measures being taken in the district include reminding everyone not to leave outside doors propped open in order to keep intruders out of the buildings, according to Stauffer.

Stauffer said counselors were made available to students this week to help anyone deal with the Sandy Hook shooting. He added the new building under construction for students in grades seven through 12 will have a sophisticated security system.

“We are doing everything in our power to keep students safe,” said Stauffer.

In other business, the board approved the 2013-14 school calendar. The calendar reflects a later start to school — Sept. 3 — to accommodate construction and opening of the new school building. Stauffer said the teachers’ union also approved going without a spring break next year to make up for the late start instead of extending the school year by one week into June.

Stauffer also announced the construction project is proceeding on schedule, and demolition of the current high school will begin around June 10. He also said tours of the building for residents who want one last look before it is torn down will take place around May 18, and a time capsule buried in the Central Building when it was constructed in 1931 will be opened. He also said pieces of various parts of the building will be sold as fundraisers.

Also during the meeting, Treasurer Chris Adams reported district finances are “tracking as expected.”

Adams discussed losses in revenue, which he said is about 5 percent below last year, and said one of those areas is from students leaving for charter schools. Adams reported this financial loss to districts in the state is “closing in on $1 billion annually.”

“We are not going to change the need for alternative schools,” he said. “We are taking a hard look at children going to charter schools.”

Adams said the district is combating this issue by adopting its own program of online learning for students seeking alternative schools. He added the advantage of the district’s program is that it allows students to participate in activities such as sports, music and drama.

In other business, the board approved accepting a donation of $300 each from MKC Associates Inc. (architects of the district’s new school building) and Regency Construction Services Inc. (acting as manager for the construction project) for high school students to participate in the Soap Box Derby Gravity Racing Challenge. The program offers students an opportunity to build derby cars for the race, which will take place May 18 at Derby Downs, and learn math and science skills in the process. For details, visit www.aasbd.org/education/gravity -racing-challenge.aspx.

The next board meeting is set for Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. beginning with the organizational meeting and continuing with the regular meeting at the Administration Building, 2960 Sanitarium Road.

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