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School district looks to building security and student safety

— Because of the school break-ins a few months ago, the district already had re-keyed all of the exterior school doors, and now the district is moving toward implementing new school access points with key cards specifically for administrators, teachers and support staff.

The new system will consist of key cards and card swipers for all four buildings, with an anticipated implementation date of Jan. 15, said Dale Bates, assistant superintendent for business and finance. Once the new cards are issued, all “hard keys” will be reclaimed from district staff, he said.

The new key card system will not only allow administrators to know in real time who is in each building, but can also be used to limit times that each building can be accessed, such as specific hours during weekends, Pastel added.

“We’re going to continue to look at this and see what we can do to improve our emergency plans and access to the buildings,” Pastel said.

Pastel said she is working to have BOCES security and safety coordinator Mark Snyder some to the district and review the plans currently in place “to see if there’s anything we missed.” She and the building principals also have spoken with the local New York State Police officers who patrol Skaneateles and Marcellus, who said they will be doing “drive-arounds” of all four schools and school parking lots, as well as the village, three times per shift, or 12 times per day. The troopers will not be entering the schools, only creating a presence in the area as a reminder to everyone that law enforcement is not far away, Pastel said.

The Skaneateles Village Police Department already patrols the four school buildings continuously every day, but since the shootings in Connecticut the department has made sure to have a patrol car visible around the school buildings at the start and end of every school day, said Skaneateles Police Sgt. Marty Stevens.

“We check the schools pretty religiously,” Stevens said. “It’s always been part of our daily checklist.”

In addition to building security and district safety plans, the best preventative measure in any community is collective vigilance, Pastel said. If people seem to be mentally distressed or making threats against a person or a group of people, it should not be “shrugged off” but should be reported to the proper authorities, she said.

Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at editor@skaneatelespress.com.

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