Eastern approves safety policies

CHARLOTTESVILLE — In conjunction with ongoing security updates across the district, officials at Eastern Hancock have rewritten the school district safety plan. It was the first overhaul since 1999.

The document, which lays out plans to keep students from harm’s way in a number of safety scenarios such as bomb threats and bad weather, was compiled by Lisa Hagan, district school safety specialist, and recently was approved by the Eastern Hancock School Board.

School officials declined to release details but said the revamped plan better addresses how teachers should respond in various situations that affect student safety. Old policies didn’t take into account safety features the district has added, Hagen said.

“This year, with all the changes, it seemed to make sense to start fresh,” Hagan said. “We tried to break everything down and be as thorough as possible.”

State law mandates every school district in Indiana to designate at least one employee as a school safety specialist. Hagan stepped into the role this year upon her predecessor’s retirement because her duties as assistant principal of the high school and middle school include dealing with student safety and security.

Hagan must complete special training each year in order to maintain her certification.

School safety specialists are required to review and update their district’s school safety plans annually. This year, however, Hagan said, Eastern’s plan needed to be rewritten because of the thousands of dollars of security updates the district has put in place, thanks to grant money from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Eastern received $124,000 from the state agency in two matching grants.

The money was used to enhance security features at the elementary, middle and high school buildings, including new locks for all doors, swipe-card access at each entrance and lightning detectors, high school Principal David Pfaff said. The funds also pay the salaries of officers who patrol the schools.

These changes made updating the district’s school safety plan more complicated, Superintendent Randy Harris said. With Hagan leading the way, the school safety committee updated policies.

The safety committee is composed of many Eastern staffers at the elementary, middle and high schools, central office and transportation department, elementary Principal Amanda Pyle said. Area law enforcement officers also were consulted.

“We try to get as many people from as many different roles as possible,” Pyle said. “Each department looks at the school and student safety through a different lens.”

Mentioning school safety often sparks thoughts of school shootings, Harris said. Parents forget about other concerns such as fire evacuations, tornado sheltering and possible chemical spills on nearby Interstate 70.

Because of Eastern’s small size, safety procedures are implemented on a kindergarten-through-12th grade basis, Pyle said.

The safety plan will be updated each year as the district works to implement further safety updates, Hagan said.

“This is a living document, and we should always make changes,” she said. “We are not doing our jobs if it sits stagnant.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.