DeKALB – Findings from a recent safety audit recommended that DeKalb School District 428 update its facilities’ existing door mechanisms, mandate more vigilance for recess monitors and update cameras.
In the aftermath of findings unearthed from the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting in May that left 19 students and two teachers dead, leadership in District 428 decided this week that it’s time to review its own efforts to promote the safety of students and staff.
At its bimonthly meeting, the school board took a close look at the district’s safety audit prepared by Paul Timm, vice president of physical security services for Facility Engineering Associates.
“We conducted the safety assessment a couple of months ago,” Timm said. “We visited every one of the school buildings and also included on those visits a door hardware manufacturer representative – somebody who represents the actual door closures, the exit devices, the locking mechanism – just to make sure that everything is up to code, to make sure where there are maintenance issues those were identified.”
Timm said one of the bigger findings from the report indicated a need to ensure that there is effective, functional door hardware.
“At some of the older facilities is where we encountered more issues than some of the newer facilities, [which had] almost no issues at all,” Timm said.
But in the aftermath of the Uvalde report, where an exterior door was not locked and interior locking mechanisms had issues that weren’t addressed, District 428 officials also have some ground to cover as the buildings age.
“We found some door-propping devices in almost every building,” Timm said. “Those door-propping devices have to be eliminated. If fact, again, if anybody was able to look at the Uvalde report, they were propping not only classroom doors but exterior doors. We are past those days.”
The results also point to what Timm described as “people issues.”
“We’ve found especially in recess monitoring that the recess monitors were standing together and talking with one another or looking at phones instead of forming a perimeter around the kids,” Timm said. “We simply are in a day where we cannot allow that to happen.”
Timm said this comes down to a need for a culture change to enhance the level of vigilance in the community to ensure there is help if it’s needed.
Tammy Carson, director of facilities and safety operations for District 428, said the findings from the report have prompted school officials to shift the first day of school from Wednesday, Aug. 17, to Thursday, Aug. 18. She said the change will allow for the district to have a safety institute day training and ensure that expectations are clear and consistent across the board for all staff.
The safety audit report comes with a set of recommendations for the district to give consideration.
Among other things, the results suggest updating the district’s camera systems around each of the schools’ facilities to ensure they’re up-to-date.
Another recommendation derived from the report suggests that the district consider hiring a security manager to take the lead in implementing best practices, problem-solving and facility planning related to school safety within all district facilities.
The security position was greenlit by the District 428 school board in June.
“We hope to have an offer extended within the next week and be able to come to you with some more information on that,” Carson said.