AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - The Austintown Local School District is one of just two districts in the state of Ohio to get federal money to add school resource officers, which will expand its already strong security system.
Since the 1970s, one Austintown police officer has been stationed at Austintown Fitch High School. Just this year, the district added security officers at the front door of every building, along with a new system for admitting visitors.
That system requires a driver's license for identification and then prints a custom pass with the visitor's photo.
The superintendent said having officers in the building is great for students because it creates a relationship that will last for years to come.
"Our students aren't fearful of officers. They don't think that an officer is going to be a bad person, coming to get them and putting them in jail. They know they're there to help them and that's very important," said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
The six new school resource officers should start by the end of the year, which will bring the total number of officers on campus to 10. Their salaries for three years will be paid by a $250,000 federal grant from the US Department of Justice.
The four buildings on the Austintown Local School campus have more than 5,400 students and 800 staff.
With that many people, the superintendent said safety has to be a priority.
"So it is basically a mini city that we're running and we feel like we're providing high quality safety and security for our staff," Colaluca said.
As part of the district's new security plan, officials have:
- Reviewed district bullying policies.
- Revamped the district radio communication system.
- Added a visitor screening system called Raptor at all of our buildings.
- Placed Austintown police officers in all of its buildings.
- Redesigned entryways to ensure that visitors have to be buzzed into the buildings.
- Completely overhauled its district safety plan using the Ohio Attorney General's template released in June.
- Provided staff development on active shooter scenarios and responses.
- Drafted new communication protocols.
- Created and distributed emergency crisis action cards to all teachers.
- Currently is working with architects to layout appropriate floor plans for all buildings in alignment to the legend issued by the Attorney General.
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