Supt. Hoverman: ‘We believe our schools are safe places’
Mounds View Schools Supt. Dan Hoverman recently discussed the district’s building security and student safety in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in December.
“It’s an understatement to say there is great concern and great need for, I think, some sharing of information about what we’re doing,” Hoverman said during the Jan. 8 School Board meeting.
He said the school district takes seriously building security and student safety, which are ongoing issues each year. In the summer of 2011, the district went through a safety audit with a private firm, and Hoverman said the district was praised for what it had in place.
“Because of the nature of our business and the nature of our facilities, there is always room for improvement and there is always work to be done,” Hoverman added.
Since the audit, the district has continued to look at ways it can improve security and safety.
The importance of perimeter security has been emphasized with principals and staff, he said. It is made sure that all the doors are secure, except the front door that is designated for visitor use. The places that pose the greatest risk for door security have been identified and steps have been taken to address those issues.
The front entrances to district buildings need to be supervised, and steps have been taken to make sure that is in place. Visitors must show a picture ID when they enter a building, sign into a log book and sign out when they leave so staff knows who is in the building at all times.
“There are some issues we need to deal with, with the entrances to a couple of schools,” Hoverman said. “That has been in play for the last year, year and a half. The work has been scheduled. It will take place, in some instances, soon, and in other instances, it will be in the summer.”
He said the school district is very fortunate to have an established, great working relationship with the New Brighton Department of Public Safety, the Mounds View Police Department and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department.
Meetings with local law enforcement are continuing throughout the school year. Discussions have focused on maintaining what already exists, which includes school resource officers in the secondary schools and the ability to have off-duty law enforcement attend special events at all district sites during the day or evening.
Hoverman said the district has been able to work out an agreement with New Brighton Department of Public Safety Director Bob Jacobson to have increased law enforcement presence at Pike Lake Education Center, Sunnyside Elementary and Bel Air Elementary.
The district is also working with the county sheriff’s department on a similar type of plan for Turtle Lake, Island Lake and Valentine Hills elementary schools. Cameras are mounted at elementary schools so the front entrances can be viewed, Hoverman also noted.
Hoverman and Director of Human Resources John Ward were scheduled to meet with safety consultants on Jan. 9 to review the plan that was submitted to the district in summer 2011 and talk about other steps the district could take.
“All of those steps are going to continue over the next weeks, months as we continue to find a way to do what we feel is reasonable and sustainable,” Hoverman said. “The issue of sustainability is really important. We don’t want to be in the position where we engage in some actions that are short-term and not sustainable.
“We believe our schools are safe places, and we believe the steps that we continue to take along the lines that we have been is the proper course of action for us.
“We need to be vigilant,” Hoverman said. “Our staff knows that. We need to have a heightened sense of how kids may be responding to this. I’m a firm believer kids will handle this as well as adults do. We need to convey to kids that we’re doing everything we can to make it a safe environment for them.”
School Board member Sandra Westerman thanked Hoverman for the thorough report, adding that the district is taking steps to make sure the schools are even safer.
School Board member Lisa Sjobeck told Hoverman, “You and the administration did an excellent job of being calm and reassuring and taking the necessary steps, but in a very measurable, calm and reassuring way to the students and the community. I want to thank you for that leadership.”
Hoverman said he will continue to report to the School Board on an ongoing basis and encouraged parents, if they have a direct concern, to contact their building principal first. He also said parents should feel free to contact him, School Board members or John Ward.
Contact Kassie Petermann at [email protected]