Prospect raises safety bar
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Jan 23, 2013 | 1521 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PROSPECT ELEMENTARY students place science books on their heads during a recent tornado drill. The school will have a different safety drill each week in an effort to help students and teachers become comfortable with them. The school has formed a safety committee to make the school building safer for students. Banner photo, JOYANNA WEBER
PROSPECT ELEMENTARY students place science books on their heads during a recent tornado drill. The school will have a different safety drill each week in an effort to help students and teachers become comfortable with them. The school has formed a safety committee to make the school building safer for students. Banner photo, JOYANNA WEBER
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School personnel, parents and members of the community are coming together to make Prospect Elementary School safer for students.

The diverse backgrounds of committee members bring different perspectives to the issue of safety.

“It’s just such a unique thing because we have so many different views,” said school counselor Michele Dunkle. “Officer [David] Michaels can give the safety view. I can give the teacher perspective and a parent perspective.”

Michaels is Prospect’s school resource officer.

Dunkle serves on the committee both as a parent and as a school employee.

“I was encouraged that we’re looking to improve things ... instead of just continuing with the way things were,” Dunkle said.

Safe schools officer Scotty Hernandez also serves on the committee.

Although Dunkle said the current plan addresses her concerns as a mother, Principal Steve Montgomery said there is always room for improvement.

“I just don’t want years down the road for somebody to say we could have been a little bit safer,” Montgomery said.

Safety committee members have already completed a safety assessment of the school and offered suggestions.

As a result of the committee’s work, only the main entrance to Prospect remains unlocked. All other entrances to the school’s buildings remain locked. Since the two school buildings at Prospect are not connected, this meant changing the way the school goes about its day-to-day protocol.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments, do a few things differently to make that happen, but everyone is on board with that. [We are] pretty much thankful that we’ve done it,” Montgomery said.

Changing classroom locks to ensure doors can be locked from the inside and replacing glass in exterior doors with a stronger grade are also in the works.

While the committee’s first concerns are within the school, Montgomery said ways to improve outside safety also being explored. One suggestion would be a privacy fence to completely surround the school.

“This will be an ongoing committee. ... This will shape our school for years and years to come,” Montgomery said.

The committee of about a dozen members isn’t looking for more funding to make improvements. Instead, the committee is partnering with the PTO to raise money and collect donations.

All proceeds from this year’s PTO auction will go toward improving safety at the school. The school has already received a $1,000 donation for proposed projects.

Four parents of Prospect students serve on the committee.

Changes being made have been presented to the students’ parents. More information about potential changes is being presented to parents through Parent Teacher Organization meetings. Many are already excited about what is being done at the school. Prospect Elementary SRO Michaels is also supportive of the committee. Montgomery said the SRO has also given input on things that could further improve safety at the school.

The idea for the safety committee began with a call from a grandparent, who had been a law enforcement officer.

Montgomery said on the day of the tragic events in Newtown, Conn., a grandparent called the school asking to review the school’s safety plan with the principal.

The principal decided that it might be good to have others review the plan as well.

“I put together some parents, a couple of teachers, some business leaders and we met to discuss what we wanted to do around the school,” Montgomery said.

Dunkle said having the committee has brought a unified approach to school safety.

“Another thing that really spurred our committee is our school sits so close to [Interstate 75]. So there was a lot of concern about that,” Montgomery said.

School safety has also been a focus for staff development and students drills at Prospect. The staff development day allowed teachers to give input on the school’s safety plan, Montgomery said.

The school recently completed a safety week to refresh students on safety drills. Students will also participate in a different drill each week to help teachers and students become more comfortable with them.