“Schools were designed for a much different time,” John Douglass told the Shawnee Mission School Board last week. Douglass, the district’s chief of security and former Overland Park Police Chief, was briefing the board on the results of five town hall meetings he recently concluded on safety in the schools and emergency planning.
Now, anyone who missed the town halls can get the same briefing on the district’s website, which features the 25-minute presentation Douglass made at one of the high schools. Revamping safety and security procedures has been a top priority for the district in the last year. Sixteen of the district’s schools had physical upgrades over the summer and a proposed bond issue provides money for changes at the remainder of the district schools.
During his town halls, Douglass covers not only securing entrances to the buildings, but an overall emergency operations plan the district has developed which covers every safety threat from an active shooter to a pandemic. It is “a very inclusive plan,” Douglass says at the town hall, “to manage and deal with anything that (might happen).” The district also has developed an app for teachers to get immediate and concise instructions to follow for each situation.
Schools were designed when the greatest risk was fire, Douglass told the board. However, he said, there has not been a school fire fatality since the 1950s, but 75 acts of school violence have occurred since the Newtown shooting. An issue of concern is doors in the schools that open out, designed for fire evacuation, rather than in to be faster to secure against an intruder.
In the town hall, Douglass also addresses plans to make each of the high schools more secure with new camera systems, door alarms and security staff. More on district emergency planning can be found here.