Administration discusses security in wake of concerns

Madeline Lee, News Editor

In wake of recent tragedies and discussions, concerns have been raised over the amount of security in schools and how it should evolve to make students safer. In the wake of recent school shootings, as well as the term “mass shooting generation” being used to describe students, there have been countless discussions in town halls, as well as behind closed doors.
“There are some things proposed on the November bond issue that relate to safety,” Chief Communications Director, with responsibilities in safety, Paul Tandy said. “One of which is adding a double entry security vestibule to the high schools, which means that visitors could go through the first set of doors, but then would have to provide identification and reasoning for their visit before they could get through the second set.”
Other proposals on the bond issue are doubling the security cameras at the elementary schools, which have the fewest number of cameras out of all of the Parkway schools.
“We’re also planning on upgrading the PA intercom systems, they’re ancient,” Tandy said. “We are going to a digital system, as opposed to the analog system we have now, which has a lot more capability.”
There are also bids going up for a more advanced visitor management system which would require school officials to scan IDs, providing a personalized visitors badge and digital tracking system. The digital tracking system would allow, through technology, the ability to see where in the building each visitor is.
“If we went this route, it would require much more commitment from everyone,” Tandy said. “It’s going to be an inconvenience and a bit more invasive, but it is something we are looking at.”
Another focus of the administration is students. One key point of preventative discussions has been mental health, and the Parkway administration has included that in its developments.
“We want to make sure all of our students are known,” Parkway Schools Superintendent Keith Marty said. “By that I mean that we want staff to be attentive to students who may be having mental or emotional issues, or depression. We are adding staff next year such to help aid that.”
More social workers will be added to the district, as well as more staff on the elementary level, to help students who are struggling.
Another hot topic of school safety has been the question of arming teachers. The Parkway School District has stated multiple times that arming its teachers is out of the question.
“You have to really understand a weapon,” Marty said, Tandy nodding along with him. “There are just too many things that could go wrong. For example, when law enforcement respond to a situation and they seem someone with a weapon in the school, they don’t stop and ask questions. You’re actually putting people at risk with that. We want to keep our students and our staff safe.”
Tandy, a veteran who had been stationed overseas, and Marty, father to members of the military, both understand the power and the purpose of firearms. Tandy, having experience with firearms, offered perspective on what it is like to even hold a firearm.
“I was overseas and for over a year carried two [firearms],” Tandy said. “You have to really train and know that weapon. People who have never carried a gun don’t understand how demanding it is to carry a weapon all day, every day, safely.”
Safe and preventative measures are what the district is focusing its attention on, and plans to talk with leaders of each high school to encourage them to figure out what is best for each high school.
“During drills, teachers need to be thinking about what is best for each classroom,” Tandy said. “I hate to say this, I hate that it has to be this way, but everyone needs to be thinking about places in the building where they frequent, and always be thinking about what your plan would be if something were to happen. Just being aware.”
Tandy and Marty both agree that more discussion needs to happen, including on the future of safety drills.
“Some districts do it so that teachers know the day that an intruder drill is happening, but they don’t exactly know when,” Tandy said.
At Parkway Central, intruder drills most commonly occur during AC lab, and only one a semester.
“It needs to stop being convenient,” Tandy said.
District administrators are not the only ones aware of the concerns that the community is having.
“Schools are built to evacuate quickly,” Assistant Principal Travis Fast said. “Because of that, there are a lot of exits, which is something that we have to be mindful of.”
The needs of each high school is different, along with some of the concerns. For example, while Parkway West has three levels, Parkway Central is very sprawled out. This leads to worry about a situation occurring in another wing of the building, and the others not being able to hear or know about it, as well as the number of doors that the school has.
“We think about everything,” Fast said. “Dallas, the custodians, and I check the other doors at regular intervals, but we do think about how we can improve that system.”
The district and the high school are encouraging future discussion, but also understanding as change can be slow when dealing with a lot of money, a lot of people, and a lot of mindsets.