Medora Community Schools students and staff should feel safer at the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Staff members will have access to a SchoolGuard app, which has a panic button that can be pushed to notify on- and off-duty federal, state and local law enforcement officers within close proximity to the school in the event of an active shooting or an intruder.
The app also helps with other situations, such as a medical emergency or when a staff member needs assistance in a classroom or elsewhere in the school building.
A new fence also is going to be placed around the school’s playground, and a security camera will be added.
The items recently were approved by the school corporation’s board of trustees after officials with the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund agreed to cover the costs through a grant. It’s valued at more than $6,000, Superintendent Roger Bane said.
“They’ve been good to us,” he said of the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund board. “About anything that we’ve asked for, they’ve delivered.”
The fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Jackson County with the help of an 11-member board made up of residents from Owen and Carr townships. It is funded with donations from Rumpke, which operates the Medora Landfill. Donations to the fund are based on the tonnage of trash processed at the landfill.
The fund is used to help finance projects or groups in the two townships. Funds have been given to local projects and activities that promote the environment and community.
Bane said the fence will be put up around the playground across the street from the school building in early June, and he hopes to have the security camera installed sometime this summer.
He said there are signs posted letting people know the playground is closed during the school day and at dark, but he has seen people there during those times.
The taller fence should help ease that problem.
“We have been finding items on the playground that shouldn’t be out there, and I’d like to get it secured so that our playground is safe,” he said.
The SchoolGuard app will be implemented at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year in August.
“We actually have the app,” Bane said. “All we’re waiting to do is to activate it, but we’ve got all of the preliminary stuff done.”
Athletic Director Brad McCammon came across information about SchoolGuard, leading Bane to talk to Capt. Tim Guy with the Washington Police Department.
In March, Bane talked to the board of trustees about how the app works and how it could benefit the small school corporation in southwestern Jackson County.
Bane learned there is a $1,000 setup fee, and it’s $1,188 per year. All staff members with a compatible smartphone would have access to the app.
A panic button can be pressed on a smartphone in the event of an active shooting or if there is an intruder in the school building.
The app simultaneously speed dials 911 and connects the staff member to emergency services. Other staff members in the school with the app installed also are immediately alerted and receive the map of the location of the initial alert, allowing them to react accordingly. Even neighboring schools are instantly alerted of an active shooter emergency.
Once law enforcement is notified, they also would have access to a map of where the alert was made.
The SchoolGuard service allows for unlimited downloads per school. The app is portable, effective and invisible to the students, so it is out of reach to them to prevent false alarms.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the average school shooting only lasts 12.5 minutes, and the average response time by first responders is 18 minutes.
The app should help with that response time, Bane said.
Another app function helps with other situations, such as a medical emergency. Bane said that button connects the person to 911.
There’s also a Teacher Assist function that could be used when a staff member needs assistance in a classroom or elsewhere in the school building.