School safety funding questions emerge on city ballots

Apr 1, 2013

Safety and security on public school grounds has become a prominent issue in several school districts following the recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn. Jefferson City Public Schools, the Hallsville School District, and the Fayette R3 School District are all asking for more tax money to improve school safety.

Parents picking up or dropping off their kids at Thorne Elementary School within the Jefferson City Public Schools benefit from the convenience of open roads right outside the school building. But the roads also make it convenient for anyone else trying to access the school. High School Teacher Christine Meyer said this is a safety concern for kids.

“Obviously with this open campus that we’ve got right now, it’s very difficult for us to cover all of the entrances and exits at the school because it’s so open," Meyer said.

That’s one of the issues the school district aims to address with the April 2 ballot that would ask for a tax increase of 25 cents. The improvement includes security and safety, technology, transportation and professional development for staff members.

David Luther, assistant superintendent of School Community Relations for the Jefferson City Public Schools, said safety and security has to be the first priority.

“Even before the tragedy on the east coast of Newtown, we had already put the safety and security issue on our ballot language," Luther said. "That’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time."

Luther said the improvement on safety and security would include adding more surveillance cameras both inside and outside of the buildings throughout the school district. The district also wants to reduce the number of entrances and exits and make the primary entryway more secured by installing different doors or using swipe passes.

High school student Danica Ridgeway said right now, students are asked to use ID cards but it’s not enforced.

“We wear lanyards which keep us safe, but a lot of kids don’t wear them," Ridgeway said. "So if there was like stricter people guarding the doors, like making sure people have lanyards on, because anybody could just walk up right now."

Jefferson City Public Schools isn’t alone with its safety concerns. Safety and Security improvement issues are also on the April 2 ballot for several school districts. The Hallsville School District is proposing a tax increase of 5 cents to fund improvement among other things on security cameras, entrances and other related changes. Superintendent John Robertson estimates that $300,000 - $500,000 out of the $2 million bond will be spent on security and safety.

“Certainly the tragedy in Sandy Hook in December really brought all those things to life," Robertson said. "So in our public meetings, we had a lot of discussions about the security in our buildings and certainly there are some things we need to do to make that better.”

Student safety is also a consideration for smaller school districts. Jim Judd, superintendent of the Fayette R3 School District, said from a $3.5 million proposal on the ballot there, about $85,000 would go to surveillance.

The proposals in all three school districts are up for a vote on April 2.