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Security assessment approved for West Jefferson Hills schools

The Homeland Security and Law Enforcement coordinator for Allegheny County Emergency Services will conduct a security and vulnerability assessment of all five West Jefferson Hills schools to see where improvements can be made.

Board members on Jan. 22 approved the free assessment.

“It’s really to identify any vulnerabilities, really just to assess and identify any potential safety issues and/or concerns and/or vulnerabilities that we might not even be aware of,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.

The district has made a push for security and safety improvements, adding armed officers to all five schools starting this school year, updating entrances and piloting a metal detector program at Thomas Jefferson High School.

The assessment will bring in an extra, trained set of eyes to look at the facilities and see what added security measures can be put in place, said James Modrak, director of security for the district.

“You’re in the buildings day in and day out, so this allows for another set of eyes in here that’s coming in completely new,”
he said.

The county coordinator will walk the schools, along with the district’s administration building, with district staffers to identify vulnerabilities.

“They’re looking at everything from windows, shades, doors, locks, procedures, protocols,” said Scott Milburn, assistant superintendent of secondary education. “We want to know where we stand on best practices. It will benchmark us against other like school districts.”

The district is constantly looking for ways to improve security in all buildings, including at the new $95 million Thomas Jefferson High School, Modrak said.

They’re also still piloting a metal detector program at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Principal Pete Murphy said he estimates about 125 to 130 of the 920 students at the school go through the metal detector pilot on a given day.

“We’re still working at it here,” Milburn said. “It’s still a pilot. … The key is how long it takes to search every bag.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributor.