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R-2 elementary schools to have new safety pickup system

Safety was the major concern at the Jackson R-2 School Board meeting on July 10, with presentations from the administration, police department and a concerned citizen.

East Elementary Principal Jessica Maxwell spoke to the Board about the implementation of a new pickup system. The safety system, called KIDaccount, was run as a pilot program during summer school and will now be used at all elementary schools in the District.

“We want to make sure, above anything, that our students are safe and they get home safely,” Maxwell said. “This will be a good tool to help us ensure that’s happening.”

KIDaccount is based in Farmington, and is being used in New Madrid, Farmington and at Clippard Elementary in Cape Girardeau. Maxwell visited Clippard Elementary this spring to see how the system worked and received tips from administrators about how to best implement the system.

The Web-based program allows the school and parents to receive updates on how students get home safely and allows for changing schedules and multiple ways of being dismissed from school.

Parents and guardians will be given I.D. cards with their child’s name and a barcode. Before people are able to pick-up a student, they will be required to show their driver’s license and have the student’s card scanned by teachers or other school staff.

If a card isn’t brought, school staff can search by student to verify if the student is authorized to be picked up by this person. Students could also have unauthorized people listed, where if they tried to pick up the student, administrators and Student Resource Officers would be immediately notified.

“In the past, this person would walk into the building and we may not know that this person is on the registered sex offender’s list or have an order of protection to protect the child,” Maxwell said. “This is a way that we can ensure right away that there is not an issue.”

Pick-up information will be handled by office staff and will be updated if parents’ or guardians’ plans change during the day. Teachers will send updated pick-up information at the end of the day, allowing them to lead their students to the proper location including the After School Kids’ Club program. Maxwell mentioned that parents will also have the option of allowing students to walk or ride a bicycle home.

Students will be held in a holding area such as a gym, and will be brought out of school in groups straight to their pick up. Maxwell mentioned that in the past, students had to stand outside, despite the weather, waiting for pickup.

Students who ride the bus will be dismissed similarly, with them being checked-out before entering the bus. Reports can be printed at the end of the day, and bus drivers will be given a manifest of the students on their bus and where they are to be dropped off.

Maxwell said KIDaccount’s CEO, Keith Petty, spent several days helping East Elementary work out the system during summer school. She said the system should streamline dismissal, save time and give students a safety net.

In other action:

• Lieutenant Alex Broch with the Jackson Police Department gave a presentation on the work Student Resource Officers (SROs) are doing in the District and their plans to improve safety for the schools.

Broch, who has served as an SRO in the past, said they are currently going through ALICE active shooter training to implement in the District. The department had done Strategos training in the past, but ALICE training is more involved for teachers and students. After going through the training, the officers can train others in the District and other community members.

Broch also mentioned that all SROs have been through training from the National Association of School Resource Officers, keeping Jackson officers up to date with national standards. In addition, the Jackson SROs meet monthly with other area SROs to brainstorm how best to deal with new situations.

Alarms have been put in all the schools in the District and area parochial schools that give school staff a direct line to law enforcement in the event of an emergency. The alarms are tested every month.

The District has also updated its cameras to high definition. Broch said video feeds from the schools are transmitted to the dispatch center.

The SROs have also helped alleviate some of the problems with traffic around the schools. Broch said it is only going to get better after construction around the District is completed.

SROs are also encouraged to stay in the schools as much as they can during the day. Broch said it is important for the SROs to know the layout of the buildings so in an emergency, they know how best to navigate the school. He said SROs stay as close to the schools as possible, even doing their paperwork in the school parking lots.

Broch said the police department continues to have a great relationship with the District, and the two entities are working together to receive a grant for more safety equipment.

• Community member Donna Tidwell asked the Board to consider adding metal detectors in school buildings. She also asked for the Board to survey the community on the issue, as Jackson residents elect the Board.

Tidwell, who spoke to the board 20 years ago on the same topic, said she has recently spoken with officials at Southeast Missouri State University’s Office of Research and Grant Development, who have said they would assist the District find funding for safety measures.

She praised the other safety measures the District has put into place and thanked the Board for letting her speak.

• The Board approved the coming school year’s professional development plan. Assistant Superintendants Dr. Matt Lacy and Dr. Beth Emmendorfer spoke about the plan and the changes from last year. With classes being pushed back a week due to construction, the majority of professional development will take place before the first day of school.

The District has also added a flexible day of professional development, which will allow teachers to individualize their learning. Both Lacy and Emmendorfer said a major topic this year will be creating relationships between teachers who have not worked together before the grades shifted.

• Superintendent Dr. John Link gave an update on the construction, saying the scheduled projects are on track to be ready for students Aug. 22.

“We’re doing well,” Link said. “Contrary to what you might see on the outside, the inside is looking really good.”

The lower level of the high school addition is almost completed, with the upper levels are scheduled to be done in a few weeks. Link said the high school construction should be done during the first week in August.

Link said the classrooms at North Elementary are complete and they are currently waxing the floors. The middle school’s new classrooms are scheduled to be done in the next two weeks, and everything but the middle school gym will be ready by the time school starts.

Construction at West Lane is focusing on two “pods” of classrooms, with the FEMA shelter not scheduled to be completed before school starts. The AIT Building construction will also be completed on time.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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