TONTOGANY – Otsego Local Schools hopes to use grant money to increase the safety in district buildings.
Superintendent Kevin O’Shea announced at the Sept. 28 school board meeting that he is requesting $400,000 to add a knock-out window to each classroom.
He said the window can be opened outward and will make it easier to escape a classroom in the event of an emergency.
Now, once the Boot is engaged at the door, people are locked in the classroom unless they throw a desk at the window, O’Shea said.
The Boot is a steel heel that fits at the bottom of a door and is secured with a pin. It can withstand 16,000 pounds of pressure, 8,000 per pin. The district installed them in 2016.
With the exception of 10 classrooms on the second floor of the middle school, students and staff will have a secondary exit plan.
“Once teachers engage that Boot, they’re no longer trapped in that room. They can get out of there and get away from this place,” O’Shea said.
Grant money also will be used to upgrade the PA and communications systems for the middle school and high school.
If there is a noisy classroom or involved in an activity, it is difficult to hear announcements, O’Shea said.
The work will be done even if the grant is not received, he said.
O’Shea said that he is sending two staff members and the school resource officer to critical rapid training in Napoleon in October.
He said no other district is the area has done this type of training.
Board President Brad Anderson asked for a post-training report.
In June, local law enforcement and fire departments will review the district’s safety plan, O’Shea said.
“We will bring all agencies together to talk about this place,” he said.
“To me it’s more what we’re doing, really keeping safety front and center,” said board member James Harter.
He said he would like an estimate cost of the work, with or without grant funding, and suggested a quarterly safety update.
At the June board of education meeting, member Mark Tolles said the district should utilize available tools, including arming teachers, to keep students safe from terrorists.
The district’s current policy states that no one, except the school resource officer, is allowed to carry firearms on school property.
That policy remains unchanged.
Also at the meeting, the board:
• Heard O’Shea said he was pleased with the findings on the recent state report card.
“We have a lot to be happy about,” he said.
One through five stars were given in the areas of Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation and Early Literacy. Otsego received 3, 2, 4, 4 and 4 stars, respectively.
“It’s a snapshot of how our district is doing,” O’Shea said.
• Heard district resident Gretchen Sommerfeld explain why she applied for the Weston Public Library Board of Trustees.
The school board must approve any new trustee.
Sommerfeld said she has lived in Grand Rapids for 27 years and was in her 30s when she enrolled in college.
Her goal is to make Weston and its sister library in Grand Rapids the hubs of their communities.
She also would like to see the board meet every month instead of every other month; form a finance committee, which is required in the bylaws; and set strategic goals.
Sommerfeld also is on the zoning board of appeals in Grand Rapids.