Schools work to enhance safety in the wake of school shootings
COLUMBIA - The growing number of school shootings is prompting mid-Missouri educators to take a close look at what they are doing to keep children safe.
There have been 17 school shootings in 2018 alone, according to EveryTown.
Michelle Baumstark, the spokesperson for Columbia Public Schools, said, “We've looked at everything from looking at enhancing the number of cameras that we have, enhancing lighting in parking lots, looking at upgrading our DVR systems so that we’re able to retrieve video footage when necessary.”
All Missouri students and staff are required to do active shooter training, bullying training, and suicide prevention training.
John Warner, of the Missouri Board Association Education, said, “We’re always reevaluating and we ask schools to do that too. We ask them to look at their emergency operations plans and see are there things they can reevaluate to increase or change what they do and make it better.”
School buildings now have a buzzer system. Visitors are required to enter through the front office first, and schools have put in more cameras. Schools also have school resource officers.
Harrisburg Superintendent Steve Combs said his district was one of the first schools to make some of these updates.
“We were one of the first schools districts in mid-Missouri to implement intruder training and so we’ve always been on the forefront of that, we’ve also had an SRO officer in our district for over ten years,” he said.
Combs said Harrisburg switched the parking lot and playground in order to make the environment safer for the children. Students, teachers, administration, cafeteria workers and bus drivers must all take part in active shooter training.
CPS is now working to install window film in all of its schools.
Baumstark said the recent shootings are leaving a legacy.
“Anytime you have a tragedy like what happened most recently in Parkland, you learn more about what you can do to keep your schools safe,” she said.
Baumstark said school safety is has jumped in importance on parent evaluation sheets from number 14 to number four in the last 10 years.
School representatives said they look at and update safety measures every year and have developed partnerships with law enforcement and first responders. The schools have also allocated more funds to safety and security.
Columbia voters recently approved a $30,000 bond for CPS and part of that money will be spent on safety updates like enhancing lighting, video systems and window safety, as well as updating the latest drills.
While school officials are focusing on physical safety updates, Warner said more emphasis should be placed on a student's mental health.
“There are things that they can do in terms of understanding some of the problems that kids have, not just within school but outside of school, too, that they bring with them,” Warner said.
Fredrick Douglass high school junior, Aalijsha Alexander believes all the extra precautions are paying off.
“I feel very safe at school. We always practice procedures like if that were to happen and we do talk about it,” Alexander said.