“I love you. Have a good day at school. Be safe.”
This is how I send my kids off to school everyday. It’s become part of my morning routine. I can’t drop them off at school, or leave for school myself without saying it.
This week, my voice caught in my throat as I repeated that last part. “Be safe. Be safe. Please be safe.”
How can we not be affected by what happened this week in Uvalde, Texas? As a mom and a teacher, I was almost immediately transported in my memories – where I was when I heard the news of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, of Sandy Hook, of Columbine, of the countless others in between?
Our first instinct is to worry about our children’s safety in the Wantagh Schools. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. McNamara about the initiatives that have been taken recently to make sure Wantagh Schools are safe. As with all other schools in New York, our district is required to have a district wide safety plan as well as individual plans for each building. These plans are shared with our local POP Officers at the 7th precinct, as well as with NYS. For security purposes, the specifics of these plans can not be shared with the general public. This makes sense because if the details of the security plans were somehow leaked to the wrong hands, it would put our children at risk.
Mr. McNamara was able to share some high level details with me. Below are some of the security measures the district has taken over the past several years:
- Installation of a school wide lockdown system.
- Installation of over 100 security cameras across the district.
- Dozens of access control points installed and a switch to a card reader system.
- A visitor management system was installed in every school.
- A vestibule with double locking doors installed in every building with a window to screen visitors with the vestibule.
- A district safety coordinator was contracted through Nassau BOCES to review our safety plans and procedures. The coordinator works with the district weekly to provide feedback and support for the administrative team.
- Additional security personnel will be added as part of the latest district budget.
- The district coordinated with surrounding districts to participate in New York State Troopers Multi-Hazard Training Program.
- NCPD Homeland Security conducted a district wide security audit.
- Regular security tabletop exercises are held with the administrative team.
- We conduct regular school drills (lockdown and fire drills) and coordinate them with NCPD so they are present and can provide feedback.
- Confidential building level safety plans are reviewed regularly and filed annually with NYS.
- We attend county-wide school security meetings coordinated by NCPD.
In addition, Mr. McNamara knows that keeping our children safe and attending to their mental health needs goes hand in hand. “We continue to address mental health concerns that arise. In many of these tragic situations it is a perpetrator that is familiar to the community. Identifying students that are struggling and providing support is critical. We have dozens of situations that we consult with law enforcement on each year.”