BY PHILLIP DOWNES
After a security evacuation at Division Avenue High School on March 5, the Levittown Public Schools (LPS) will continue on schedule with installations of the $3 million security upgrades allotted in the 2018-19 budget passed last spring, as per LPS Superintendent Dr. Toni McDonald.
Some infrastructure upgrades, including bulletproof glass vestibules at district schools, have already been installed. But other projects, like security guard booths and new doors, have yet to be completed.
While a district-wide door replacement project has not yet been awarded, the planned upgrades will include solid wood bulletproof doors equipped with security technology that will accept school authorized cards to lock and unlock.
The 650 new doors are projected to cost the district around $900 to $1,000 each, according to a district representative.
Along with facility upgrades, the district also increased its budget last spring to add security personnel throughout its 11 schools. It is also implementing new policies for entrance to schools, requiring background checks and ID verification for visitors.
“We have filled all the security positions that were budgeted for in the 2018-19 budget, increasing our security staff to 41 guards,” the district said in a statement.
The district is using funding from the 2013 and 2017 capital reserves for security infrastructure costs, which includes guarded lobby spaces, a security command center and the new doors.
All projects are eligible for state aid based on the expense and type of project. But McDonald added that “[Levittown Public Schools] did not receive any additional grant money for these purposes from New York State.”
Parents and students alike seem to generally support these new measures and upgrades, but not without any criticism.
Ann Pizaro, mother to a senior student at DAHS, appreciates the new upgrades, but voiced concern over processes like visiting the school.
“The front desk staff was in no way ready to handle the new protocol,” Pizaro said. “Months into the school year, it was still not an easy process to check in for an appointment.”
She then went on to describe her encounter with her front desk check in at DAHS.
“What should have taken three minutes took close to 10 because the bell wasn’t working and although they looked straight at me, [the front desk staff] ignored that I was ringing the bell and knocking on the door.”
Krista and Vincent Albrecht, who have two children in the district, are pleased with the district’s steps toward more secure schools.
“As an employee of another school district and having visited several other districts for professional opportunities, the scanning of licenses for background checks seems to be a pretty standard practice,” Krista Albrecht said. “I honestly do not worry about my children’s safety while they are in school.”
Students expressed mixed opinions, but most have adjusted to the new routines.
“I feel that the new security measures ensure the safety of students,” DAHS junior and Student Council President Emily Fuchs, said. “At first, some students complained about the inconvenience of only being able to enter through certain doors. However, the security staff is now able to stay for after school activities and they make entering the building for these activities much easier for students.”
Superintendent McDonald said, “All feedback has been very positive with regard to the enhanced security measures from parents, staff, local law enforcement and our collaboration with safety consultants at Nassau BOCES.”
—Phillip Downes, a Levittown native, is the managing editor of the Albany Student Press at the University at Albany.