Medora takes steps to make school safer


Parents of Medora Community Schools students had one less item to buy for the new school year.

Jackson County United Way funded the purchase of mesh backpacks for all students to use. Those were handed out during the Rock’n Ready school supply distribution event in August at the school.

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Students now have to use the mesh backpacks or some other type of see-through backpack as a safety measure.

Principal Austin Skutnik said the change has been well-received.

“It has gone really well. The kids were totally fine with the new backpacks,” she said.

“(Superintendent Roger) Bane and I had heard of some other schools that require students to have see-through backpacks just for safety reasons,” she said. “I knew with our small population that it wouldn’t be out of the question for us to provide those to the kids. I feel like it’s a reasonable request, especially if we’re willing to pay the cost of the backpacks so parents don’t have to hunt down a see-through backpack.”

Fortunately, they came at no cost to the school or parents.

“We were very fortunate in them buying the backpacks for us,” Skutnik said of the United Way.

“We had tons of community members that pitched in, too,” she said of the Rock’n Ready event that also included free school supplies, toiletries, clothes and haircuts for students. “It was awesome. It went so well for us doing that for the first time.”

The school had some mesh backpacks left over that can be given to new students or if one of the backpacks breaks.

“They are not made to carry a ton of stuff,” Skutnik said. “The hope is as we move forward in our 1:1 implementation that they are taking less and less materials home and they are able to take their Chromebooks because all of their materials will be housed in the classroom.”

School shootings occurring across the country prompted Medora officials to explore ways to keep students and staff safe.

“Unfortunately, in light of a lot of the school shootings that have taken place over the last few years, it just seemed like a simple step that we could take to try to keep the kids safe,” Skutnik said of the backpacks. “I know that you can’t prevent all bad things from happening, but this was one of those easy ways that we thought we could help be more aware of what’s coming into our schools.”

For several years, the school building has had a buzz-in system at the main entrance, and all other entrances are locked. Also, classroom doors are closed and locked throughout the school day.

“That is a standard procedure,” Skutnik said of the school choosing to keep classroom doors closed and locked.

Earlier this summer, a taller fence was put up around the school’s playground. A sign on the fence lets people know the playground is open to the public from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily and is under 24-hour video surveillance.

Staff members also now have access to the SchoolGuard App on their cellphones. The app 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 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 a map of the location of the initial alert, allowing them to react accordingly. Even neighboring schools are instantly alerted of an active shooter emergency.

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.

There is a $1,000 setup fee for the app, and it’s $1,188 per year. The service allows for unlimited downloads per school. The app is portable, effective and invisible to students, so it is out of reach to them to prevent false alarms.

The costs of the new playground fence and app were funded by the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund, which 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.