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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Admin: Safety a priority for schools

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  • Security of children in Rolla Public Schools is, and always has been, a priority in nearly every aspect of planning a typical school day.
    "Rest assured, it never leaves our mind," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis said at Thursday night's Rolla Board of Education meeting.
    But he stressed that security in Rolla does not hinge on national news events and national discussions, though those instances can be used to learn new ways to protect children. Instead, security is a part of everything from long-range planning of facilities to voluntarism in the schools.
    "It's not an event, it's a process," Zalis said of building security.
    "We do work with law enforcement and private consultants," Zalis said during a discussion of facilities information that included the building and grounds update, a plan for expansion of the RHS cafeteria, as well as security. "Our long-range plan has security embedded in it," he added.
    Zalis said administrators, local police and private security consultants met Wednesday, something that is done periodically to discuss prepping for everything from natural disasters to manmade tragedies.
    There's a lot of information the administrators and the authorities don't want to release to the general public, he said, such as evacuation procedures and emergency gathering places.
    "There is a relation between security and facilities," Zalis said.
    There's also a relation between voluntarism and security, for Zalis noted the police department's Volunteers In Police Service are heavily involved in serving the school district.
    "They're in the buildings on a consistent basis," he said.
    Additionally, officers are always welcome to spend time in the school.
    "If they want to come by and eat with the kids, they're welcome," he said of the police officers. "We've got a special account for them; we'll buy their lunch."
    Zalis said it's important to administrators and staff to have a building that is both open to parents and secure.
    "We want the buildings to be welcoming to parents," he said. "We don't want to over-react, but we also don't want to be perceived as not acting at all."
    School security was also part of the Monthly Board Report from the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA).
    Brent Gahn, anchorman for that streaming video news report from the MSBA, noted that school safety has been an important topic statewide and in individual districts throughout Missouri since the Connecticut mass murder in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
    "School districts need to have a security plan in place," Paul Fennewald, an adviser to the Missouri Center for Education Safety, said in an interview on the program.
    Fennewald encouraged local districts to work with the local public safety community to formulate a plan.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Schools remain the safest place for our children to be," Fennewald said, noting that although shootings are tragic, far more deadly are travels on the road. Each year, he said, thousands of school children die while traveling with their parents.
    Also deadly is bullying, which can occur within or without the school, in person or on the internet, Fennewald said the media and school officials don't address this issue in public enough; bullying is deadly, he said, because it leads to many children killing themselves each year.
    In other business or discussion:
    Rolla High School junior Iqra Choudhry was sworn in as the new student advisor to the board.
    Retiring student adviser Michael Steelman was presented a plaque of appreciation from the board.
    The February board meetings were set for Feb. 7 and 28, and the board decided March will have just one meeting on March 14. The next meeting will be Jan. 17.
    There was a reminder that filing for the school board ends Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. Incumbents Jim Packard and James A. "Jamie" Myers have filed for the two three-year positions that are open.
    The consent agenda was approved and monitoring reports were reviewed.
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