By Sue Botos
Safety and finance were two of the major topics discussed by Superintendent Michael Shoaf during his State of the Schools address prior to the Nov. 26 school board meeting at Beach School. A second presentation will take place at 9:30 today.
“If we have a serious event in our schools, we have procedures in place to do our best,” Shoaf stated. “We believe we are trained for an actual event, but we hope we don’t have to use it.” He complimented technology director Dianna Foley on overseeing the planning, which Shoaf said was praised by the Department of Homeland Security.
Detailing some of the safety procedures in place, Shoaf said the the Safe School Helpline is a 24-hour hotline allowing parents, and any community member to report an unsafe condition. “This is a quality tool everyone can use,” stated Shoaf.
The NaviGate Protect system, which was installed almost a year ago, allows first responders to have a 360-degree view of all school buildings, allowing then to size up a situation before actually entering a facility. “We’re working with the fire and police departments closely,” Shoaf added. He said teachers have been trained by Rocky River High School Student Resource Officer Mike Bernhardt and SWAT Team members on ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) safety procedures appropriate to each grade level.
In addition, Shoaf said the district has been working with the city for over a year to secure a Safe Routes to School grant from ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation). He noted that in 2016, the district will apply for a $15,000 grant, which will fund improvements to the safety of students walking or riding bikes to Kensington Intermediate, St. Christopher and Rocky River Middle schools. Based a prior study conducted by the district, the work could include revamped intersections, signals and signage. Shoaf said the district has also been working closely with the newly formed police bike patrol.
In the area of finance, Shoaf noted that the last time the district placed a levy on a ballot was in 2012. “Our goal was to extend (the levy) the three year year cycle, and we’ve been successful,” Shoaf said, adding that the hope is to continue until 2017 or 2018 before again turning to the voters.
While a recent study conducted by the Ohio Schools Facility Committee did not predict a significant uptick in enrollment over the next 10 years, Shoaf said fluctuations in class sizes may call for some reconfiguring within the buildings. “We’re in a position where we can manage with our existing facilities,” said Shoaf, noting the addition of three classrooms at Kensington by repurposing space.
“We utilize every inch of space,” continued Shoaf. While he said that Goldwood Primary School “does not have a lot of room for growth,” future discussion by the administration and the board will include all-day kindergarten. Under consideration is the reconfiguring of two Goldwood rooms to accommodate a pilot program.
Shoaf added that there is also discussion of moving the preschool program from Goldwood to Beach. He assured that there would be “no permanent improvement levy” or bond issue to accomplish these changes.