Allen County school safety questioned after Conn. shooting



December 18, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Iola schools look to heighten security

Although the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. was some 1,300 miles away, the event hits close to home.
In regards to the shooting that occurred Friday, school districts, not only in Allen County but also all over the state and country, are revisiting their safety procedures.
“Whenever something like this happens it always affects all school districts,” said Brian Pekarek, superintendent of Iola school district. “What is most important is the safety of our kids, staff, parents and community.”
Pekarek said reviewing safety procedures and making changes accordingly, keeps school districts proactive against danger.
“You can’t guarantee something like this will never happen, but you can lower the risk,” of it happening, Pekarek said.
Since the shooting, Pekarek has been speaking with various administrators to see what would be the correct course of action.
USD 257 has two options available, Pekarek said. One, are simple changes, such as ensuring all doors remain locked at the schools with the exception of the front door. 
Currently, all Iola schools have open access throughout their buildings. Signs are posted for visitors to check in at the respective front office of each of the three elementary schools, the middle school and the high school.
All the schools have cameras, which are monitored throughout the day, Pekarek said.
The second option is more costly, such as changing the location of front offices in the schools so visitors must go through the office before entering the school, or having key card access to all doors at the schools. 
There isn’t a definite course of action for USD 257 as of yet, but Pekarek said he would continue meeting with teachers and administrators to brainstorm new procedures that would lower the risk of danger in the schools.
Pekarek will then present any changes at the next board meeting on Jan. 14.

WITH the possibility of a new school to be built in Iola, safety has become a significant area of focus for the facilities planning committee — even prior to the shooting in Connecticut.
The committee visited new schools in Garnett and in Chanute and each school has extensive safety features. All doors are locked and there is only one entry and exit point for visitors with a buzz-in feature.
These features have been at the top of the committee’s “must need” list when thinking of a new facility, Pekarek said.
“It is important to stay proactive when negative news comes in,” Pekarek said. “We can’t help what happened in Connecticut, but we can be proactive in keeping our kids safe.”

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