In 2018, in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, the Somerset Public Schools (SPS) and Somerset Berkley Regional High School (SBRHS) conducted a risk-assessment and review of school safety and security measures in each school and established a school safety advisory council (SSAC). As a result of the risk assessment, several safety measures were implemented in addition to other work that had been completed prior to the risk assessment.
Below is a summary of several school safety and security initiatives that have been implemented in recent years:
During the 2015-2016 school year, the districts adopted the active shooter civilian response training ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate). Students and staff conduct ALICE drills each year, practicing how to react in situations where there is an active threat in the school.
Training and Crisis Plans
The SPS and SBRHS have developed and maintained crisis plans to ensure that, should a crisis situation occur, staff are aware of what to do and what processes to follow. These crisis plans are reviewed frequently and updated on a regular basis to include information about new types of situations.
School Resource Officers
Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, two School Resource Officers (SROs) will be dedicated to our schools, with one assigned to Somerset Berkley Regional High School and the other assigned to the four schools that make up the Somerset Public Schools. Prior to the 2018-2019 school year, one SRO was assigned to both districts and was stationed almost entirely at SBRHS. SROs provide a daily police presence in our schools and help to address discipline and safety matters in the school.
Visitor Check-In Procedures
Buzzer and camera systems have been installed at each school’s main entrance so that anyone entering the school is granted access to the school after answering several questions about the reason for their visit to the school. Visitors are then directed to the school’s main office to check-in. Each school’s main entrance is the only entrance accessible to visitors from the outside. All other exterior entrances are locked from the outside. In keeping with fire codes, these exterior doors can be easily opened from the inside through the use of push bar-style systems should there be the need for a rapid evacuation of the building.
In the 2018-2019 school year, we will enhance the visitor check-in procedure by requiring visitors to sign in using their driver’s licenses. The information from the driver’s license is then checked against the national sex offender registry to determine if any registered sex offenders are attempting to enter our schools, or if other individuals are attempting to enter who should not be permitted. Should there be an issue, school administrators can take immediate action.
Coordination with the Somerset Police Department
We have numbered every exterior door at each of our school buildings. These numbered doors help emergency responders easily and quickly identify which entrance to use in the event of an emergency at any one of the schools.
Further, the Somerset Police Department and the school districts have implemented Crisis Go, which is software that opens the doors of communication between the schools and the police in the event of an emergency, reducing response time and increasing the lines of communication.
Interior and Exterior Security
Beginning in 2018, the Somerset Public Schools are adding interior vestibules at each school’s main entrance to direct visitor traffic into the main office. This prevents visitors from gaining access to the school until they have successfully checked in while adding another barrier between the outside and our school interiors. We have also relocated the main offices at North Elementary School and Somerset Middle School from their interior locations to areas that are accessible immediately from entering the buildings from the outside.
Using funds approved by the Town of Somerset new classroom door handles were installed at all elementary school classrooms where appropriate handles with locks were not already in place. A number of external doors have been replaced at the three elementary schools and middle school since 2018 to harden the external perimeter of our schools.
Electronic Employee Badges
In 2018, we will be implementing an electronic key card access system, which will be installed at the most widely used entrances at each school building. With this system, access to the schools will be restricted to certain times of day, depending on the employee’s regular duties. With these cards, access can be changed instantly, should an employee ID card be lost or stolen, or an individual’s employment status changes.
Video Surveillance System
We have been using a robust video surveillance system in the Somerset Public Schools and Somerset Berkley Regional High School for several years. These cameras allow school personnel to monitor activity inside and outside our buildings so that if there is someone in our buildings who should not be, we can quickly detect it and take the appropriate actions. The School Resource Officers.have access to these cameras.