Lakeland Proposes Additional Security Monitors

The monitors would be stationed at a single point of entry, while all other doors in the buildings would remain locked. Credits: File/Brian Marschhauser

SHRUB OAK, N.Y.-Lakeland administrators are proposing more than a half-million dollars’ worth of expansions to school security and mental health programs for the 2018-19 school year.

At the March 15 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. George Stone said the district has identified, as its biggest security priority, the need for security monitors during afternoon and evening hours.

From approximately 3 to 9 p.m., Stone said, pedestrian traffic in and out of the district’s eight buildings is not monitored. This is worrisome, he said, because of the after-school activities that take place and the community groups that use the buildings.

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Hiring eight additional security monitors for these hours, Stone said, would cost the district about $296,000, or $37,000 per monitor. The monitors would be stationed at a single point of entry, while all other doors in the buildings would remain locked. Though “not perfect,” Stone said, this addition would be a “major step” in improving building security.

“Adding a monitor would ensure locked doors and a basic screening of arriving and departing visitors,” Stone said.

Resident Stephen Reid, speaking at the end of the meeting, said the district needs additional security for after-school hours.

“The security here is severely lacking,” Reid said. “Anybody can walk into this building after 4 p.m. The doors are wide open; there’s nobody here to stop anybody.”

Reid the security measures currently in place are nothing more than “smoke and mirrors.” Recently, he said, he went to pick up his son at school for a doctor’s appointment. Because of his “scary” appearance, he suspects the monitor hesitated in letting him in the building.

“I get frustrated. I look at the camera, I hold down the button,” Reid said. “She buzzes me in. Who am I? She didn’t ask me for any ID. She made no attempt to stop me. What’s the procedure? There is no security. It’s all smoke and mirrors and I’m tired of it. And someone up here is going to have blood on their hands, God forbid something happens, because they’re aware of it and they do nothing.”

Mental Health Program

Earlier in the meeting, Mary Ellen Herzog, assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services, proposed the expansion of the middle school’s Bridge Program to both high schools.

The in-school program serves as a place where anxious students can go and continue their studies, as opposed to staying home and falling behind. Students recovering from concussions can also make use of the program.

Herzog said 18 middle school students currently use the program, which is staffed by a psychologist and a teacher’s aide. English, math, science, social studies and foreign language teachers are also assigned to the program for one period every day.

Teachers, parents or the students themselves request placement in the program. A school counselor will evaluate the student and then make a recommendation to the assistant principal, who makes the final decision.

“We are not looking for students to become too comfortable in their homes,” Herzog said. “We need them to come to the buildings and feel very comfortable there, and they do.”

Herzog said the program is successful because it has received support throughout the district, including from the transportation department.

“If a student is not able to get to school in the beginning of the day, if they feel resilient later in the day, [the district] will send a bus for them to come,” Herzog said. “That has been really instrumental.”

To staff the program at each high school with a psychologist ($80,000) and a teacher’s aide ($40,000) would cost $240,000.

At the high schools this year, Herzog said, there are seven students who require therapeutic placements outside of the district; four students who receive home instruction; one student who splits time between school and home; one student who received at-home therapy through BOCES; and three students who use other programs.

Herzog said the Bridge Program would cover about 90 percent of those students.

“I can’t give you a full dollar amount for those costs, but that far supersedes what the cost of the [Bridge] program would be if we had that in the two high schools,” Herzog said.

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