State officials seemed to be impressed by the good relationship Bayonne schools had with local police, according to Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan, who said that other districts do not seem to have the same relationship.
McGeehan gave her report to the Board of Education as its Jan. 24 meeting.
The review was of about 170 schools throughout the state, a mix of urban, suburban, large and small schools.
The panel reviewed three schools in Bayonne, including Bayonne High School, Dr. Walter F. Robinson School and Nicholas Oresko School. They reviewed various levels of security measures, from lockdown and bomb scare drills, to the shelter standards, or a hypothetical scenario for an active shooter.
“When I heard ‘active shooter,’ my ears picked up a little,” said Assistant Superintendent Robert Craig.
McGeehan said this was a very intense exercise that included real-time simulations with officers going into locked-down classrooms as part of a test of reaction.
While this inspection consisted of only three schools, McGeehan said the district intended to perform similar inspections – with minimum announcements – at the rest of the schools in the district, with the goal of reviewing all the schools by the end of the school year.
“These will be primarily active shooting scenarios,” McGeehan said, “that will test protocol.”
The district is also using a much more advanced radio system that connects the schools to the police department and officers more quickly. The radio system can get police officers to any school within the district in a matter of minutes.
Bayonne High School, which is the most complex and largest of the district’s schools, has three officers assigned to it, as well as a host office for the police department’s juvenile division, said McGeehan.
But security is being increased throughout the district involving the entire staff.
Custodians will check doors inside and out, and students will no longer line up outside schools. Instead they will be brought into the building, where they can proceed to classes. Parents will no longer be lingering outside schools and double parked cars outside school will be eliminated.
McGeehan said principals and vice principals will take greater responsibilities at doors, with two teachers helping to bring school kids indoors.
Door locks will be upgraded or maintained as part of the panel’s recommendation, as well as some additional security for larger areas such as gyms and auditoriums.
In addition to that security will be increased at elementary schools for afterschool programs with administrators being assigned to cover the schools until 6:30 p.m. every day.
The district named Jack Britt as head of security at the Jan. 24 meeting at a rate of $31,000 for 10 months starting Feb 15.
“These will be active shooting senerios that will test protocol.” – Dr. Patricia McGeehan
The Bayonne school district is expanding its life skills program for students with special needs, McGeehan said. A new life skills facility is being constructed at the high school with the help of fundraising and The Simpson-Baber Foundation. The facility will help prepare career-minded special needs students for the culinary field. The new program and facility requires new ovens and other equipment that the school hopes to raise money for.
While the district has other special needs life skills programs in the elementary schools, this one would be designed to provide training for those going into the culinary field after high school.
Through a number of donations from The Simpson-Baber Foundation, Friends of the Disabled, UNICO, and the Bayonne Educational Foundation, six sleds for children with special needs will be available at the high school ice rink, McGeehan said.
Those who can’t walk can still enjoy the ice, she said, noting that high school students can help by pushing the sleds.
All-day pre-k programs are being launched for a limited number of students. The school district would pay for a half-day – which it currently does – and parents would pay a fee for the second half, covering the costs of teachers and aides. The district hopes to start this later in February.
The district’s breakfast program will be implemented in all of the schools by the end of the school year, said Schools Business Administrator Leo Smith, who hopes to get permission from the staff for universal distribution to all 9,700 students so that every student in the district will get free breakfast before school.