The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 3, 2013

Security concerns about Neosho school aired at board meeting

School placed on lockdown during recent incident

By Roger McKinney

NEOSHO, Mo. — With a recent scare having prompted a lockdown at South Elementary School, security there was a topic this week at a special meeting of the Neosho Board of Education.

Tim Crawley, school district operations director, told the board that the building’s layout made it difficult to secure.

In a phone interview on Friday, Crawley said the building was built in the 1960s using a popular school building layout, which educators refer to as the California construction model. He said entrance doors open into a hallway that leads to classes, where modern school buildings have a single entrance door that funnels people toward an office or checkpoint.

“Sandy Hook has got us all looking at how we can make our buildings safer,” Crawley said, referring to the Connecticut school that was the location of a mass shooting.

Crawley said Monett had a school with the same layout as South and in the past few years has corrected the problems with new construction. He said that may be the long-term solution the Neosho School District could pursue. He said it may be considered to be included in a possible 2014 bond issue proposal.

There are other things that can be done in the interim, he said.

Recently, the school was placed on lockdown for a short time when a parent notified officials about spotting someone who looked out of place approaching the school playground during school hours. Crawley said he thinks the person wandered onto school property inadvertently, but the parent and school officials took the correct action. A school security officer and police questioned the person and the lockdown was lifted.

Crawley said there often are parent volunteers at the school in what is known as the Watchdog Dad program to keep watch on the students. The school also has a program in place called Eyes on Kids, in which a staff member watches, or escorts, children when they move from one location to another in a building. For example, when a child walks from a classroom to the main office.

He said there also is the possibility of construction of some fencing in the interim.

The district is planning a Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter at the school that would double as a gymnasium. Crawley said those plans would allow for the construction changes needed to improve security to be added later.

Active PTO

Tim Crawley, Neosho School District operations director, said the parent-teacher organization at South Elementary School is active and involved.