NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) — Late Tuesday afternoon, Noblesville schools rolled out a comprehensive and costly list of recommendations to improve school safety.
The district said the school security upgrades were in the works months before the May 25 shooting at Noblesville West Middle School. But that event is accelerating safety changes.
Noblesville's school board meeting Tuesday night opened with a standing ovation for teacher Jason Seaman. Seaman's quick reaction disarmed a 13-year-old school shooter in his classroom.
The meeting quickly moved to looking at a security upgrade plan the district actually began working on with parents and staff months ago.
"There are no quick fixes," said a school administrator who also said there would be a price tag attached.
The district says it's ready to ask for a referendum to raise more money to cover safety fixes if needed.
So what's on the list of upgrades?
Portable classrooms, like those outside White River Elementary School, are about to go away. The modular buildings are only partially protected by a chain link fence. Parents say they're happy about the district's decision to stop using the portable classrooms.
At Tuesday's meeting, the district laid out other key parts of its new security plan to the board, including:
- Elimination of all portable classrooms
- Additional school resource officers
- Enhanced facility structures
- Increased facility lockdown tools
- Additional surveillance equipment
- Classroom barricading products
- School parking lot access control
- Additional technology for increased safety communications
- Additional counseling staff and mental health supports
Would all that have prevented the May 25 attack?
"It's hard to say what would have prevented that. But I think many of these will certainly help giving peace of mind to parents and help make students feel safer," said Superintendent Dr. Beth Niedermeyer.
But it's about much more than hardened doors and drills.
Niedermeyer says there's a huge piece with mental health, to identify a troubled child before there's trouble.
“I think having the kids feel valued, respected and that we recognize any warning signs early on for students, we can get the supports in place for them and help their families as well. That all is involved when you think of safety for kids,” Niedermeyer said.
Parents had a chance to voice their concerns at the meeting.
"Please consider adding a full-time director of school safety," said one parent.
"I do believe it can happen again. We need metal detectors, we need counselors," said another.
"I'm concerned there are ticking time bombs," a third parent said.
He and other parents want reassurance the school is on top of those other possible threats in the classroom.
The district will bring the formal plan and the price tag to the school board for approval. Parents hope to see the upgrades by the start of next school year.
“I think it is going to help us be more safe for our students and I think it is going to bring parents peace of mind,” Niedermeyer said. “We are still estimating all of the costs. We don’t have final cost structures yet. It is going to take some time but we are willing to do what it takes.”
Paying for the additional school security could be an issue. According to a news release, the district has some of the necessary funding. Administrators plan to pursue federal and state grants. Noblesville schools may ask property owners to pay part of the bill through a tax increase. A referendum could be on the November ballot.