Catholic Schools: Programmatic Excellence School safety a top priority, with or without state funds

Catholic Schools: Programmatic Excellence  School safety a top priority, with or without state funds

Students at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield will cross new thresholds when the doors open in September. School president Michael Chambers said the update might lack some “razzmatazz,” but he’s thrilled with what the new stairwell doors mean for safety at Paul VI.

The interior doors can stay open as students move through the building during the day. Magnetized to shut automatically if the alarm is triggered, the doors will contain a fire for up to one and a half hours.

“No one’s going to come in and say ‘Wow, these are new fire-rated doors,’” said Chambers. The school’s emergency alarm system has been updated too, replacing the traditional bell pull system with new horn and strobe technology. Chambers said the school’s significant investment was important, even if the changes are without “glitz and glamour.”

“Keeping our students safe is—and always has been—a top priority in all our schools,” said Assistant Superintendent Sister Rose DiFluri. “Even though the funds are in reserve, schools are moving forward with security plans,” she continued, referring to Gov. Christie’s recent executive order to hold non-public school accounts until other state funding issues are resolved.

Catholic elementary and secondary schools in New Jersey received funding for security for the first time in 2015. The amount was $25 per student, compared with the $138 per student allocation for public schools. New locking systems, surveillance cameras and monitors, two-way radios, protective film for windows and doors, and fencing are among the purchases schools have made in the last year with available funds.

Sister Rose said the state funds covered a fraction of what it costs to keep the schools secure. “But it’s a help,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be safe, no matter where they go to school.”

Cape Trinity Regional School and Wildwood Catholic High School share a building and pooled their 2015 resources for an upgraded PA system with separate school channels, an emergency all-call channel and new speakers inside and out.

Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, received highest compliments after an unannounced visit from the New Jersey Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning. Principal Heather Crisci was asked to exercise an active shooter drill. The DOE report noted that procedures and practices were well-planned and implemented, and it was clear the school had a strong relationship with local police.

The report concluded, “We highly encourage sharing of best practice… within the diocese and across schools within a municipality that share local emergency responders. The administrators at Camden Catholic are a valuable in-house resource that can be tapped to engage and improve the practices at other diocesan schools.”

A next step for many diocesan schools is to move communication systems to an undisclosed location, away from the school office. Considered a best practice, this change enables discreet orders for lockdown and communication with police.

With or without state funds, the ongoing focus on security will continue to ensure the safety of diocesan students, faculty and staff.

Mary Beth Peabody is Communications and Marketing Manager, Office of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Camden.

For more information about Catholic schools in South Jersey visit www.camdendiocese.org/catholic-schools-home (856-583-6103).

Categories: Catholic School News

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