Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Duneland moves to beef up school security and improve parent web access to grades

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A national movement to make schools safer following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary shootings has made its way to Porter County and the Duneland School Corporation.

Duneland Director of Safety and Security Steve Rohe said the Porter County Safe Schools Commission has been recently revamped and members are sharing ideas on how to assess security needs at all schools around the county.

The Commission is comprised of agencies countywide such as school safety specialists, juvenile probation, homeland security, emergency management agency, fire departments, officers of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police and municipal police departments including Chesterton Police, Rohe said. The services and information of the committee is available to all schools, he added.

Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer asked Rohe at Thursday’s School Board meeting to give the board an update on security procedures in light of the Sandy Hook Shootings.

All of DSC schools will have the “buzz-in” system for visitors if they do not already, Rohe said. Those to receive new systems include Chesterton Middle School, Westchester Intermediate, Liberty and Yost Elementary Schools.

Each school will also have an ID check for each unknown person who comes into the building that will check if the person is a registered sex offender or if they have any trespass warnings or restraining orders.

DSC Director of Support Services Greg Lindy said a new greeting station at the main entrance of Chesterton High School will have a desk set up for someone to check IDs. The desk will be constructed by the Building Trades class.

Lindy said DSC staff will carry school ID badges with them to enter/exit the building.

Rohe said that CPD Chief Dave Cincoski has started a community outreach program which has members of the CPD regularly visiting the Duneland Schools walking through the building and interacting with the students.

Rohe said that parents are getting used to seeing a police car parked at the schools for security and not immediately thinking there’s something wrong. Rohe believes that having unscheduled police visits is an effective way to divert intruders, Rohe said.

Rohe said the schools will continue their regular state-mandated drills. Since the school shooting tragedy in Columbine, Colo. in 1999, schools have practiced shooter drills at least once a semester in addition to practicing fire drills once a month and weather/tornado drills up to four times a year.

But what Rohe said may be the most effective method of security is the anonymous tip line that DSC students, parents, or anyone in the community can use if they suspect any kind of threat without having to give their name or contact information.

“Our greatest asset in security is our people,” Rohe said.

The tip line can be found on the DSC website by clicking Safety & Security under neat the Program and Services tab on the main page. The line is checked by Rohe and DSC’s school resource officer CPD Sgt. Randy Komisarcik.

Rohe said the tip line receives only a few prank messages and many of the concerns have turned out to be minor.

“Thankfully they have all turned out to be nothing, but we don’t want to take a chance of missing one we really need to listen to,” Rohe said.

Students are encouraged to report any concerns to their teachers. Rohe said that research after Columbine showed that in 84 percent of shooting tragedies the shooter had told somebody beforehand.

School Board member Ronald Stone asked how fast the police response time would be if there should ever be an incident at one of the schools. Rohe said that PSCP Det. Jeff Biggs has estimated police can arrive in a matter of two to three minutes and the first officer responding would not depend on what agency they are with but how close they are to the school when the call comes in.

Rohe said that tragedy can still strike no matter how advanced security measures are. The schools have the responsibility of determining an appropriate level of security without disrupting the students’ education, he said.

Replacing the RDS system

In another matter of transformation, the board heard from Duneland Director of Information Kevin Wilson on his committee’s activities to choose another vendor for the Duneland website’s parent access feature.

The committee’s initial evaluation and an in-depth evaluation have evaluated the RDS system and strongly urged replacing it with Skyward as the new vendor.

Skyward will make it easier for parents and teachers to schedule conferences just by making a few clicks on the parent access portal of the Duneland schools website.

Wilson said the program will help teachers with tracking each CORE standard requirement in gradebooks and lesson plan books. It has an event scheduler that can e-mail parents about class activities, plays, field trips, etc.

There is also a test score storage feature which will help teachers save time in data collection and there is a backup system in case the internet shuts downs while teachers are entering grades.

Data storage will make it easier to track a student’s progress and make charts. The family access will allow parents to see where their child ranks on assignments in his or her classroom. Custom report cards can be viewed with teacher comments.

“We’re going to have a lot more visibility and transparency of what’s going on in students’ lives,” Wilson said.

School documents such as registration forms will be available for download on the server.

A few Duneland employees are currently testing the system and registering for Skyward will begin possibly this summer. Wilson said he hopes to have full registration starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

Public demonstrations on how to use parent access and online registration in Skyward are to be scheduled in the next few months, Wilson said.

 

 

Posted 2/26/2013