With the increased violent threats to schools throughout the nation, Wisconsin passed Act 143 in 2017 to help protect staff and students. This act required the Office of School Safety to provide schools with the best practice guidance available.
Jamie Pierce has been the “man behind the curtain” at Potosi High School for the past nine years. He is currently the Maintenance Director and Safety Coordinator. Before working at Potosi High School, Mr. Pierce worked at a manufacturing facility for 10 years, improving and coordinating safety plans. He has plenty of experience and qualifications to continue to make improvements at Potosi High School.
The safety committee is in charge of identifying issues and situations that pertain to the well being of students and staff. Mr. Pierce is not the only person on the safety committee. The safety committee consists of roughly ten staff members, including administration, counselors, and teachers. Local law enforcement and fire and rescue squads are also involved to create the best plan possible. Students will occasionally get involved when needed. The committee usually meets on a monthly basis, unless an issue arises that needs to be addressed. There are many different topics and issues talked about at these meetings. The main topic discussed is how to protect against the possibility of a school shooting, since there has been a large number of shootings over recent years. They also discuss school bus safety, pedestrian safety, playground safety, and other topics.
One situation that the safety committee has acted upon is that the first two school buses now line up side by side instead of single file during drop-off and pick-up times. This was done to increase the safety of parents and students leaving school because vehicles were driving by the buses and through the crosswalk, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
There have been many other improvements over the last couple of years to make the school much safer for students and staff. Those improvements include: all exterior doors have been replaced with new locks that are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, as well as sensors to tell when a door is left open or did not close properly; door access controls were installed to monitor who enters the school and when they enter; installation of a new public address system; and over 70 cameras have been installed inside and outside of the school; emergency/panic buttons were installed in every room that automatically notify law enforcement and which room number the problem is in; safety film was added to windows and glass doorways to make it nearly impossible to break; and lastly, 2-way radios were purchased for communication. Many of these improvements were funded by a Department of Justice grant. Staff members have had multiple training sessions with law enforcement, as well as crisis intervention and learning to be proactive.
When I asked, “What safety plans have been made at Potosi High School?”, Mr. Pierce responded with, “The school has created a very detailed crisis/safety plan that addresses different scenarios and how we would react in those situations. Each room in the school has a safety binder containing information such as student rosters, parent contact information, staff duties, a map of the school with all the room numbers, and more critical information.”
Staff usually have three or four training sessions per year and two drills with students involved. This past year, there have been a few false alarms where the panic buttons were accidentally pushed. Mr. Pierce said “We learned a lot from these drills due to the fact that they were unannounced and no one was prepared. It’s these situations where you realize what you are missing.” He also said that there will be another drill in the near future.