The Onteora Central School District Board of Education unanimously adopted the District Safety Plan at its August 2 meeting. The safety plan, which is legally required by the state Department of Education, replaces Onteora’s Emergency Management/Disaster Preparedness Plan. It was implemented after a 30-day comment period.
As part of the new plan, Onteora created a School Safety Team that includes School Board trustees, district staff, administrators, school safety and other personnel.
The district-wide safety plan will guide development of building-level plans.
The safety plan was in the minds of some parents in the wake of two recent incidents in the district.
On June 1, district officials put Phoenicia Elementary School on lockdown after 21-year-old Woodstock resident Gordon Norton entered the secured school parking lot and ran into the woods to evade police. He had been in an argument in Phoenicia.
In another incident, a motorist on Main Street in Phoenicia sought refuge in the school parking lot when the car had muffler problems.
In an era of school shootings so numerous they don’t all make national news, Onteora is no different than any other district and now has about four lockdown drills and eight fire drills per year.
The safety plan does not specifically address active shooters. When questioned about this omission, Superintendent Victoria McLaren told a concerned parent there are protocols within building-specific safety plans to address those situations that aren’t made public for security reasons. The district doesn’t want a would-be shooter to discover any vulnerabilities.
The district plan does address intruders. In those cases, the first person on the scene must identify the intruder and notify the building administrator, who will confront the unauthorized person and ask for identification.
The intruder is escorted out of the building. If they refuse to leave, 911 is called and if necessary, staff is notified the intruder protocol is in effect. The emergency is lifted upon law enforcement recommendation.
Protocols are also listed for hostage taking, kidnapping, fires, floods, structural failure, pathogens, hazardous materials, bomb threats, gas leaks, school bus accidents and pandemics among other situations. The safety plan is available at https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1659631396/onteorak12nyus/ohcdsadlooziiv8fmwgy/onteora_district_safety_plan_2022_2023.pdf or by going to https://www.onteora.k12.ny.us/about/district-plans and navigating to Plans, then Safety.