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ECS Makes Security Improvements
ECS Makes Security Improvements
Aaron Gaffney
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

In part due to the recent wave of school related violence episodes that have taken place throughout the country, Ellsworth Community School is in the process of implementing new safety and security measures prior to the upcoming 2018/19 school year. 

“In the wake of several of the tragedies that occurred nationally this past school year the ECS Board of Education and I have had numerous conversations regarding school safety and security,” said ECS Superintendent, Aaron Gaffney.  “While we generally feel that we already provide a safe and secure environment for our staff and students, there’s always more that can be done.”

As a result of the many internal discussions, Ellsworth will be making several personnel and building changes throughout the summer.  “We feel that school safety and security is the number issue all schools are currently facing,” Gaffney indicated.  “However, there is not a single, one-stop answer.  Whatever we do needs to be multifaceted.  From increased building security, to improved safety plans, to more access to mental health services, we need to be willing to look at everything.”

One of the largest monetary investments Ellsworth will be making this summer is in the hiring of a School Safety Director.  This completely new position will be combined with the existing Transportation Director to create a full time job opportunity.  “This is a new position for us, but one we feel is extremely important,” said Gaffney.  “Being a small district we typically need to find ways to combine positions in order to make ends meet.”

The School Safety Director will be responsible for assisting in securing a safe and secure environment for all students, staff, and community, as well as helping to coordinate safety, security, and emergency preparedness training for all students and staff.  After posting the position, Ellsworth hired ECS alumni, current cross-country coach, and former U.S. Marine Ruben OviedoDelgado to fill the dual role of School Safety and Transportation Director.  “Ruben is just a fantastic person,” indicated Gaffney.  “He develops outstanding relationships with kids and will be a huge addition to our team here in Ellsworth.”

 

While many details of this new role will be flushed out during the course of the coming year, Gaffney described several of the key roles that the District will be looking for the Safety Director to fill.  “First and foremost, Ruben will be working as a mentor to students and serving as a liaison between the school and students and their families.”  In addition to acting as a mentor and liaison, the School Safety Director will be assisting with analyzing and developing school safety plans and routinely checking and monitoring school grounds, hallways, and building entrances/exits.  “I’m very excited about this phenomenal opportunity to work with students and to help build everlasting lessons of life, for our kid’s future,” said OviedoDelgado.  “As a graduate of Ellsworth it means a lot to be home and give back to the community in any way I can.”

Another important school safety and security project that ECS is currently undertaking involves the installation of shatterproof security film on all interior and exterior glass surfaces in both the elementary and middle/high school buildings.  The shatterproof film manufactured by 3M Safety and Security films “provides the next step to enhancing security measures within school systems by fortifying glass to deter unwanted entry and also minimize safety hazards,” according to certified installer Nick Mueller.  “I was amazed by the effectiveness of the product in demonstrations,” said Gaffney.  “While we certainly hope that it is never put to use, it represents additional time for students to find a safe location in case of an emergency, which is one of many layers that schools need to consider in terms of safety and security.”

Gaffney also indicated that the district has been looking at other safety and security measures to supplement the districts existing systems.  “In terms of security, we already have many critical elements in place including video monitoring systems throughout our buildings as sell as secure vestibule entrances in both the elementary and middle/high school.  In addition to the 3M safety film that will be installed this summer we have also been exploring several classroom door barricade options.”  In terms of door barricades, Gaffney indicated that building construction code and fire code issues have hindered the installation of these devices.  “We’re continuing to try to work with officials from the Bureau of Fire Services and the Bureau of Construction Codes to find a common sense solution that meets state building and fire codes while still providing the safety that our students and staff deserve.  While we have been unsuccessful in navigating the many issues thus far, I remain somewhat optimistic that solutions can still be found.”

Ellsworth has also been working with Health Department of Northwest Michigan, Charlevoix-Emmett Intermediate School District, and Antrim County to provide more in-district counseling services to students and families.  “Better access to mental health services is another important part of the solution to improved school safety,” stated Gaffney.  “There is no one single answer.  We need to be open to looking at and addressing everything from physical safety improvements, to better plans and processes, to more access to counseling.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that will be going away anytime soon.  While we may not have the exact answers, as a district we will continue to be proactive in looking for solutions.”