School Bond—New School Safety Features
When the current Malad Elementary School was built in the mid-1950s, the most contemporary construction plans for schools called for easy access to the school, classrooms, and playgrounds. Malad’s then new elementary school was built with all of the classrooms on the south side of the building having inside doors to the hallway and outside doors to the playground. The school was designed with two main entry/exit doors – one by the office and auditorium and one by the cafeteria. These doors provided students, teachers, parents and visitors easy access to either the auditorium or the cafeteria for school programs and events.
Beginning with the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, school safety has become the major concern for all schools, especially as school shootings proliferate. Those outside classrooms doors on the current elementary school are now a hazard rather than a benefit. Many of the glass windows have been removed from those classroom doors, and some doors are blocked from the inside with heavy bookcases or other furniture.
With student safety the top concern for Oneida School District officials, the proposed new elementary school will incorporate up-to-date safety features to protect students and staff.
Entry and Exit Points
Different from the current elementary school that has multiple points of entry, including those classroom doors that open directly onto the playground, the new school would have a single point of controlled entry for students, staff and visitors. (Additional exterior doors would have crash bars and would be locked and set with alarms at all times except during such emergencies as fire.)
The school office would be right at the front door so that all persons entering or leaving the building would have to pass the office. In the current building, people have to turn to the right from the main door and walk about 20 feet to get to the office, and office personnel do not have a clear view of people entering or leaving the building. The new building would allow school administrators and office personnel to clearly see everyone who enters or leaves the building. All visitors would be required to check in at the office and to check out when they leave.
School lockdowns in the new school could be initiated from the main office where personnel would be able to close all doors automatically. All interior doors would be locked at all times. When needed, classroom doors could be locked or unlocked from inside the classroom; teachers would not have to go outside the classrooms to lock or unlock the rooms.
The school would be compartmentalized so that each of the three sections could be locked down separately. The two classroom wings and the central area would have separate lockdown capability although the entire school could be locked down at once.
Every classroom would have a direct telephone line to the office, and teachers and office personnel would have two-way communication capability. Different from the current intercom system that uses one-way communication from the office to classrooms, teachers would be able to initiate communication with the office. The office would be able to communicate with individual classrooms, selected rooms or the entire school.
The new school would continue to have a direct communication link to the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office. The latest communication system would be installed at the school to ensure immediate response from the Sheriff’s Office should an emergency arise.
The enlarged playground would have a fence encircling it, similar to the fence that has surrounded the current playground for the last several years. Students would be safe from traffic, intruders and other dangers with the continual presence of playground aides and camera surveillance.
Cameras with the latest technology would be installed throughout the school and on play areas, in parking lots, and around the school to ensure safety of students and staff . The cameras would capture images of actions that not only threaten the safety of students and personnel but also actions that violate school rules and behavior expectations. A large screen would project rotating multiple images from the cameras into the office at all times to monitor activities inside and outside the school. The recordings from the cameras would be kept digitally for as long as deemed necessary.
Bus Loading and Traffic Concerns
The bus loading/unloading area would be on the west side of the building (off 300 West) and completely off the street and out of traffic. The parent/private car pickup/drop off area would be a drive-through area on the south side of the building (off 400 North). These two heavy traffic areas would be separate to decrease congestion and increase student and pedestrian safety.
Responsibility for Student Safety
Superintendent Jon Abrams emphasizes that student safety is the top priority of Oneida School District. He also reminds all students, parents, staff and community members that “the biggest help in protecting students is building strong personal relationships throughout families, schools and the community.” He wants all students to know they will always have someone in the schools to whom they can turn for help, advice, counsel and kindness. While the School District will provide modern safety measures at the new school, the ultimate responsibility for student safety lies with the students themselves, their families and the community. If everyone is vigilant in protecting students and reporting safety violations, Oneida School District schools will be safe havens.
With so many school shootings in the news all the time, Mr. Abrams states that parents are wise to be concerned about their students’ safety. Anyone who has questions about safety features in the proposed new school should contact Mr. Abrams at 208-534-6080 ext. 412 directly and not rely on hearsay.
The bond election is scheduled for Tuesday, March 14, with the polls open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Event Center at the Fairgrounds. Early voting can take place at the Recorder’s Office at the Courthouse from February 27 – March 10. For more information, see www.oneidaschooldistrict.com.
A new, safer school will be possible only if 2/3 of voters approve the bond. Although the bond will not affect tax rates for residents of Oneida County, the bond must pass in order for the School District to receive the State’s share of the cost of the building.