Board seeks input on safety and security proposals; comments accepted through Feb. 24

The Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District community will have the opportunity to weigh in on several proposed safety and security enhancements that could be put in place across the district, including adding a school resource officer at the middle school and guards at the elementary schools. 

The J-D Board of Education is soliciting public comment on those recommendations and others that Superintendent Peter Smith put forth at the board’s Jan. 23 meeting. His proposal includes a multi-prong approach to safety with the following recommendations:

  • Contracting with an outside agency for a comprehensive district wide security audit;
  • Contracting with a security expert to test the procedures and enhancements put in place as a result of the audit;
  • Conducting a cell phone reception audit to identify gaps in service;
  • Hiring an additional school resource officer (SRO) to be based at J-D Middle School; 
  • Hiring three guards, one for each elementary school;
  • Expanding surveillance camera coverage; 
  • Installing panic buttons in each school that would immediately put a school on lockdown, including automatically shutting fire doors to limit building access, and 
  • Installing key fob building access controls that would limit who has access to various entry points at and within the schools as well as to exterior building doors. 

Board members had previously asked Smith to gather feedback on several options to increase safety and security so that the board could then prioritize and review those options. If the board decides to move forward with adding an SRO at the middle school and/or guards at the elementary schools, it would need to amend the district’s formal safety plan that it submits annually to the state. 

When considering changes to the safety plan, the board is required to offer a 30-day public comment period in which individuals could ask questions or raise concerns. That comment period has opened, and feedback on the proposed enhancements should be sent to Smith at through Feb. 24. Smith will send that feedback to the board for its review and consideration before its next meeting on Feb. 27.  

At recent board meetings, community members have spoken both for and against more police in the schools. At the board’s Jan. 9 meeting, the J-D District Equity Council weighed in on the topic of safety with a statement in favor of a police-free approach to school safety and investing in positive safety and climate measures.

“The District Equity Council provides us with critical information that must be considered in this decision,” Smith said. 

Currently, the district has an agreement with the Town of DeWitt Police Department for one armed full-time police officer to be based at J-D High School. That officer also supports the district’s other four schools. The agreement with the town focuses the position on security matters rather than discipline. The officer performs perimeter checks of the building and serves as an extra set of eyes and ears whose entire focus is on safety and security, Smith said. 

The guards at the elementary school, who would be unarmed district employees with a background in safety and security, would serve that “security-first role” as well, he said.

The day-to-day mentoring and relationship building of students is a role that is filled by school personnel, allowing security staff to focus on safety, Smith said. That is something that is clearly outlined in the district’s contract with the DeWitt police department and would remain in place if the board opts to increase the number of security personnel across the district, Smith said. 

In Smith’s proposal, the middle school SRO could support safety and security efforts at Moses DeWitt and Tecumseh elementary schools due to the physical proximity of those buildings to the middle school. The high school SRO, who currently supports all five schools, would continue to be based at the high school and support Jamesville Elementary School due to its physical proximity to the high school. 

“In their security-first role, SROs will be walking around the inside and outside of our schools, supporting our school and district safety teams, assisting with drills, monitoring cameras and other safety-related responsibilities,” Smith said. “SROs will not be involved in discipline, which falls within the purview of the building administration.”