Connellsville Area School District to institute security boost
Connellsville Area School District is stepping up security measures for its schools with new products and training.
The first step, said Phil Martell, the district’s temporary superintendent of schools/director of finance and operations, is the Raptor Program.
The program is a visitor-management system to beef up security at the schools.
Instead of a visitor providing his or her name, the reason for the visit, the time and date and vehicle make and model, Martell said the visitor will need only to show a driver’s license or state identification card.
“Your ID is put through the system, and it scans it through four or five sex-offender databases nationwide,” Martell said.
If a visitor is flagged as a sex offender, an alert is given to the school administrators and the police.
If a visitor has no such record, a sticker is printed out for the visitor to wear that displays his or her identification photograph as well as name, the date and time and where the visitor is going within the school.
“It’s definitely a benefit of the school district,” Martell said. “It’s a very consistent way to track visitors and volunteers and keep people who present a danger away.”
Martell said the district is in the process of getting the system set up for the 11 school buildings and expects to have everything up and running by Dec. 1.
While the district is currently waiting for approval on grant applications to help pay for the $17,800 system, the school board decided to move forward to pay the cost out of the general fund and reimburse the money if a grant is received through the state’s Safe Schools funding.
Along with the new system, the school board approved the district’s director of security, Mike Parlak, to attend a nonviolent crisis intervention training program known as ALICE.
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.
“In a nutshell, it’s a set of strategies to survive a violent-intruder event,” Martell said.
Parlak will attend the training Jan. 26-29 and will return to train the entire district staff.
According to the ALICE website, the program was designed by a police officer to keep his wife, an elementary school principal, safe after the events at Columbine High School in case of a threat or an active-shooter situation.
The program teaches individuals to participate in their own survival while leading others to safety, increasing the odds of survival.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive program nationwide,” Martell said, adding that the program has been endorsed by police departments, the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General’s Office.
Martell said it’s unfortunate the district had to move forward on the programs without grant approval but administrators didn’t want to hesitate on safety in an age of school shootings and child predators.
“It’s better to err on the side of caution,” Martell said.
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or [email protected].