‘Remaining Vigilant’

JPS Board Addresses Safety, Holds Moment Of Silence

Prior to the regular meeting, the board held a moment of silence for victims of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

A moment of silence for the victims of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida preceded a Jamestown Public Schools regular board meeting that largely revolved around student safety.

“It is sadly a time of reminding yourself to remain sharp,” said Paul Abbott, board president. “I think the security of our students has always been paramount with this board.”

Doug Champ, Jamestown resident and grandfather of two Jamestown students, addressed the board in open session with his concerns over gun violence and student safety. Champ asked that a dialogue about gun violence and student safety be created.

Abbott said in response that school safety is a “continuing dialogue,” and noted that teacher training sessions are still present at Jamestown schools to prepare for active shooters. Abbott, a former Jamestown police captain, said he remembered teaching such sessions in years past at the schools. Abbott said every time an incident such as the one in Florida occurs, the school will look at what it can improve upon regarding student safety.

“We will always continue to have those discussions,” Abbott said. “I don’t think there is ever a time where we will ever feel that we’re doing everything that we could be doing. I think there is always something that could be looked at.”

Superintendent Apthorpe also addressed school safety and the Florida school shooting. Apthorpe began the superintendent’s report by updating the board on safety measures the school has implemented recently.

“On the day of (the shooting) I had contacted the principals and asked them to review their safety protocols,” Apthorpe said. “This is something, sadly, they’re all too familiar with.”

The superintendent emphasized the “social and emotional relationships” that teachers and staff have with students. He noted that the schools have to “remain vigilant on staying connected” with students.

He also addressed recent news that schools in Florida are looking at hardening school security. Many schools in Chautauqua County have adopted a “person trap” process at the entrance of each school. The two-entrance safety precaution requires visitors to be remotely allowed access to the school by a school employee twice, once from outside and once again once inside the “person trap.” Apthorpe noted that it’s much easier to implement this type of safety entrance in the Northeast region of the country because of the colder weather. In warmer school climates, Apthorpe noted that schools tend to have open campuses that feature more school space outside.

Apthorpe noted the schools in the district each have state-of-the-art security camera systems inside and outside their buildings.

The superintendent mentioned that the board expressed to him when taking the position last year that student safety was a top priority. During the meeting, Apthorpe took time to discuss recent changes and upgrades that have been implemented.

A command center has been established that can communicate with every office in the district more easily and each school also set up repeaters within each building that give better range and reception to their radio systems allowing for better communication.

Apthorpe also looked at what the district is planning regarding school safety in the future. The district will be reconstituting a district wide safety committee that will be made up of students, parents, law enforcement, board members and medical personnel.

“We’ll look at having regular meetings that look at the safety and security of the buildings,” Apthorpe said.

He noted that this would also include discussions regarding student mental health.

Apthorpe also discussed aligning the district’s emergency protocols with that of FEMA’s National Incident Management System (NIMS).

“The National Incident Management System is the protocol that FEMA recommends to all entities,” he said.

Those entities include businesses, non-profit and schools. Apthorpe said this was implemented while he was superintendent at Frontier Central School District.