BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN While safety and security improvements were a part of recent renovation and construction on the Delano Public Schools campus, at least one parent believes concerns in those areas still exist.
Lindsay van Bergen, who has two children attending school in the district, addressed the Delano School Board Monday, saying she had the support of teachers and community members in doing so.
“Each and every building in our district is in need of structural building security improvements,” van Bergen said. “Most concerning to me are the unsecured vestibules, unlocked office entrances, and the vulnerability of the office staff in each of the buildings.”
She detailed concerns with offices in every building.
“No matter the building, office staff is responsible for initiating lockdown protocol, and by allowing this part of the building to remain unsecure at the point of entry is a large safety concern, which would compromise the lockdown procedure and put all students and staff at significant risk in the event of an attack,” van Bergen said.
She asked a number of questions:
What is the history behind planning for security improvements in our district?
During the initial process of construction and design districtwide, was a security company, different than an architectural firm, consulted for developing the security-related plan?
What is the long-range future plan, specifically for areas in our buildings that have not been improved?
“Developing and executing stronger safety-related protocols in our buildings must also be addressed,” she continued.
She recommended that all offices be staffed during school hours.
“How can we improve staffing within our offices, and what protocols can be developed to make sure office staff have a clear understanding of their role in school security?” van Bergen asked.
She said office personnel are responsible to monitor who is entering and exiting the office.
“If an intruder plans to enter the school, should they be allowed to get into the office at all?” van Bergen asked. “And, if so, why, and at what cost? What is the backup plan if the office is under attack, and how do we justify this plan to the people who work inside the office?”
All school offices now utilize Raptor visitor-management software, including an ID scanner, to identify and screen guests.
However, van Bergen does not believe it is being used inconsistently, saying she had only been asked to check in using the system once, despite visiting Delano Elementary School more than a dozen times.
“While I do believe the Raptor system is a useful tool for improving school security, I encourage the district to firm up the expectation for its use, requiring every visitor to use it every single time they enter and exit the building,” van Bergen said.
She believes that drills are needed to prepare for a crisis, and yet she said Delano Early Childhood Family Education staff members have told her they have never practiced a lockdown drill.
“How can we better prepare our staff for crisis situations when demonstrating commitment to the process and safety of our students and staff?” van Bergen asked.
She noted that there may be more safety and security concerns, and encouraged others to help identify areas of improvement.
In closing, she compared school safety and security to strapping a baby into a car seat before leaving even though no one expects to get into a car crash.
“School safety is no different,” van Bergen said. “I want to send our children to a school where I know we took action to, hopefully, prevent a tragedy like the 20-plus school shootings that have occurred in our country in 2018. I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect children during an everyday occurrence as simple as a day at school.”
School Board Chair Mark Larson thanked van Bergen for her comments. As is common practice for the board, no further response was offered, but two school board members did approach van Bergen after the meeting.