LEBANON — Folders, backpacks and pencils: back-to-school lists will soon be on the minds of many as school returns in the next few weeks.
For school boards, the list of things to do before classes start might look a bit different this year. Ohio districts are now focusing on how they’ll handle a recently passed House bill.
HB 99 does not require that schools arm teachers or any other staff members. Instead, it reverts back to the prior practice of allowing districts to make a decision on if they will or won’t permit staff members to be armed on school grounds.
Isaac Seevers, Lebanon City Schools Superintendent, said how that is handled will be unique for every district.
“House Bill 99 is permissive, it’s not prescriptive,” Seevers said. “We have a great relationship with law enforcement in the city. We have close access to law enforcement, and a partnership with them.”
Seevers said the matter will best be discussed with public input, and that process could take time.
The law defines minimum training for people authorized to carry firearms in schools, mandating up to 24 hours of school-specific training. A father of three students in his district, Seevers said the matter isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
“That’s the filter in which I make these decisions. I know I turn my kids over every day, for seven hours a day and my expectation is that they come home safe,” Seevers said. “It has to be something we focus on.”
In Lebanon, Seevers said police can arrive at any of their school buildings within four minutes. The district contracts with the Lebanon Police Department to have one school resource officer floating between the district’s buildings.
From a security standpoint, Seevers said they’ve focused on access control points in each of their buildings — single points of entry, along with staff members having ID cards that can be used as swipe badges. Buildings can be locked down at any point in time to control who comes in and who leaves the building.
During Wednesday’s work session meeting, the school board discussed the possibility of adding a second school resource officer. Seevers said they’ve also focused on safety classes and seminars. The problem? It comes at a cost.
“We receive little funding for safety, for those issues,” he said. “We have to apply for grants to get training for people at certain times. I think that’s one of the things, as I’ve advocated for state legislatures over the past several months, this is a priority for everyone.”
He acknowledged safety of all students is priority number one and highlighted the need to think outside the box.
“Money the district is using and having to put toward that, and not going to education in the classroom,” Seevers said. “I think if we continue to look at the issue of safety across the board we’ll have to leverage dollars from the state, or other resources. What we’ve put in school safety is coming out of the classroom.”
Seevers said the main goal is for the board to focus on safety matters so that teachers and students can be focused on the classroom.
“We start school three weeks from today,” said Seevers. “We’re excited about it, want kids back in the buildings. We want them in the buildings safe.”
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