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Glencoe District 35 to increase security at elementary schools | #schoolsaftey

With the 2023-24 school year about to start, District 35 officials are detailing some security enhancements at the three Glencoe elementary schools after an incident during May caused concern among parents.

With the first day of classes scheduled for Aug. 30, the District 35 administration and school board discussed the changes at consecutive Aug. 10 meetings.

The upgrades include an addition of exterior buzzers to outer doors on all main entrances, revised video monitoring of main entrances and key locations, new interior security film starting at Central School and updated lockdowns buttons — similar to fire alarms — that transmit visual and audio signals to all classrooms.

The security discussion follows an incident last May when Central School was placed on lockdown when five youths were arrested in a car theft incident and a public safety officer brandished a gun.

While the lockdown was brief, many families arrived at the school concerned about their children.

District 35 officials promised there would be an examination of procedures after the incident, including communication with families in case of an emergency.

“Reflection and learning from what occurred last spring is tightening up the timing on what we send to parents and the directions on what we are or are not asking them to do as well as following up when they will be hearing from us next,” Superintendent Catherine Wang said.

Director of Finance and Operations Jason Edelheit said the district spent approximately $800,000 on the enhancements.

The school district is also working with the village’s Public Safety Department by installing antennas in the schools.

“That makes our radios work better in their buildings,” Public Safety Director Cary Lewandowski said after the meeting. “It makes our communication more seamless.”

Moreover, teachers will be alerted through email, text or school issued devices in case of an emergency such as a lockdown.

“We reflected and altered and added a layer of communication to get information swiftly out to the teachers,” Wang said.

Wang noted there would be a review of safety practices with the staff at the start of the year and every classroom would have a list of safety-related directions.

Lewandowski said existing security procedures from the Public Safety Department would continue in 2023-24.

“We are going to be present at arrival and departure times like we always have and we will have periodic walk-throughs at all three schools throughout the day,” he said. “It’s business as usual for us.”

School Board President Kelly Glauberman also reflected on that day and the lessons learned.

“Time slowed very much down while it was happening but in the grand scheme of things it was so quick,” she said. “The reality was the communication was very quick. I think we as parents need some perspective ourselves on not rushing to school when something happens. The children were OK when it was all over and it was a quick moment on that day.”

In another part of the regular school board meeting, Edelheit said an approximate $3.8 million upgrade of 39 Central School classrooms will be completed in time for the first day of school. The changes include new flooring, lighting, ceilings and furniture.

Also in place for the upcoming school year is new playground equipment at the South School, District 35′s K-2 school. Edelheit said the project was delayed to ensuring elevations, slopes and grading were correct. He was not certain it would be ready in time for the first day of classes.

Other South School enhancements including new landscaping and hardscaping at South’s front entrance with new asphalt at the back of the school and a bus rider walkway will be ready.

Edelheit said the entire project cost roughly $1.6 million.

Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelance reporter with Pioneer Press.

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