MENDOTA – Members of the Mendota Elementary Schools board of education met with Pat Callahan of Studio GC, the district's architect on Nov. 5. The committee meeting was set to discuss current building security options and needs (buzzer systems, doors, windows and locks) along with air conditioning options, track replacement and timeline and funding sources for these projects.
Kristen School, district superintendent informed board members of a recent altercation at Northbrook School.
After news of threatening comments made to school personnel were made known, School posted on Facebook, "We put safety measures into place and felt students and staff were safe at all times."
An email was eventually sent out to parents regarding the incident, as well.
Due to legal reasons, School declined to publicly comment on specifics of the altercation.
Board member, Theresa Komitas told School that even an email sent out immediately after an incident stating, "there was a disturbance at school with police involved, details cannot be given at this time, but students were safe," would give peace of mind to parents.
Board member, Mandy Ossman interjected that she did not want an email every time the police showed up.
School agreed that the police are called to the schools frequently and for many different reasons that do not warrant a parent email.
Also addressing student safety, School noted that district employees began active shooter training at the beginning of the school year and personalized training with teachers in their classrooms has recently been taking place in the district's three buildings.
To further continue seeking safer schools, board members are addressing building security.
Callahan suggested the board put together a plan that prioritizes the list of things that need to be done over the next 10 years with strategies to get more longevity out of what the district already has. "If you know what you have to do, you can plan for it and be proactive instead of reactive," he stated.
Items the district wants to address are the entry buzzer and camera systems and technology needs for these systems, locks on interior and exterior doors and windows. Even the lack of air conditioning throughout the district's buildings affects safety as often windows and doors must be kept open to create air flow through the classrooms.
Funding sources will also have to be determined. Callahan noted that the state is getting stricter on uses for Life Safety funds.
"There is not a lot of guidance I can give you on how to come up with a priority list other than a door buzzer system is an important aspect of a more secure plan," offered Callahan.
Not only does the district need to have safety measures in place for people entering the schools, but to get students out of the schools easily as well. Callahan noted that sometimes safety measures put in place by the police departments and fire departments are completely opposite.
No matter how good the building security is, Callahan added that it is the procedures that fail not the security measures. He reminded board members that the district's policies have to be practiced and constantly critiqued.
Finally, Callahan suggested a drone video over the three schools would help the district to see problematic drop off and pick up safety concerns. He showed a video of another district that gave a birds-eye view of traffic patterns, gathering locations, and unprotected areas.
The acquired Doenier Field from the Mendota High School several years ago has become a burden for District 289. Needed track resurfacing could cost the district over $150,000, money the district does not have. While the track is used during P.E. classes, for the annual Lincoln relays, NMS spring track, and various other activities, board members are wondering if it is worth it to repair. Other entities using the facility, including Junior Tackle, do not fully supply the necessary funds for the upkeep.
The district is now considering what it would cost to tear it down.
Not only is the track used by the school, but it has long been open to the community. How important is it to the community, the district is wondering. Undecided on the track's future, board members are hoping if they hold a town hall meeting, it might give them some answers. If help in funding from the community does not happen, the district may have no other choice but to permanently lock the gate.
A date for the meeting has yet to be determined.