Jackson School District tightens security rules

JACKSON – New protocols describing how parents and guardians are permitted to visit schools were recently introduced by Jackson School District administrators.

In November, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco sent a letter to parents outlining the changes and calling them a necessary step for security in the district’s 10 schools.

“These changes were developed in collaboration with our district security staff, receptionists and the Jackson Police Department,” Genco wrote. “[They] represent our continued effort to evaluate our security needs and make changes when necessary.”

According to district administrators, the changes were made to allow staff members to pay more attention to who is entering Jackson’s schools during the day.

In the morning, school personnel, including teachers, stand at the main entrance as students arrive. In order to make the task of watching people entering the school less distracting, administrators are asking parents to wait at least 20 minutes after the students’ arrival time before entering the building for whatever purpose brings them there.

An exception will be made for parents who have an appointment that has been approved by a teacher, a counselor or the principal.

“We realize parents of some younger students are accustomed to walking their child through the doors in the morning,” Genco wrote. “This new procedure allows our staff to better focus on the students during this busy time.”

Genco said parents are also being asked to refrain from taking their child out of school when there is less than 20 minutes left before the dismissal time. He said an exception will be made if prior notice regarding a pick-up time has been provided by a note or email to a teacher or principal.

In the event of an emergency, parents may contact administrators by telephone prior to arriving at their child’s school.

“Please know we are not limiting a parent’s ability to sign his or her child out of school when necessary. We simply want to allow our staff to focus on the safe and orderly dismissal of the student body,” Genco wrote. “This advance notice helps us make arrangements to have your child ready for release without interfering with dismissal times.”

Parents were also notified of new entrance procedures at the schools. Each visitor will notify a receptionist of his or her arrival by using a buzzer at the front door. Each visitor will be asked why he is at the school.

If an individual says he has an appointment with someone in the school, the appointment will be verified. At that time the visitor will be allowed to enter the school and asked to report directly to the receptionist, where he will have to present a valid photo identification card. A visitor’s pass will be provided and the individual’s identification card will be held until he leaves the building.

If an individual says he does not have an appointment and seeks entrance, for example, to drop off a student’s lunch, he will be permitted to enter the building to do so.

All visitors are asked not to come to the school in the 20-minute period following the opening bell and in the 20-minute period prior to the dismissal bell.

Genco said small actions by all visitors and staff members can further bolster school security, such as not holding a door open for other visitors and limiting student drop-offs and sign-outs.

“With hundreds or thousands of students in a particular school, each unnecessary diversion draws our staff members’ focus from their assigned tasks,” the superintendent wrote.

In addition to the changes in protocol, the district implemented security upgrades during the summer, including the installation of additional cameras and newly keyed locks, according to administrators.

— Andrew Martins