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MASD schools to get security assessment; anonymous donor funds private company's work

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/9/18

A consulting firm will do a “risk and vulnerability assessment” of all schools in Middletown Area School District, in light of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High …

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MASD schools to get security assessment; anonymous donor funds private company's work

Reid Elementary School
Reid Elementary School
Posted

A consulting firm will do a “risk and vulnerability assessment” of all schools in Middletown Area School District, in light of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.

The school board on April 17 approved hiring Vulnerability Solutions Group LLC, a Mechanicsburg-based company led by a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper, to do the assessment of all five district schools for $11,900.

The assessment is being paid for by a private donor who following the Parkland shooting offered to provide financial assistance to the school district to address any needed improvements to school safety and security, according to district Superintendent Lori Suski.

The donor is also willing to fund “some” of the enhancements to safety and security that could be recommended by VSG, Suski said.

Suski has told the Press & Journal that the donor is willing to provide assistance in the range of “about six figures.” The donor has requested anonymity, but is willing to allow his — or her — identity to be revealed sometime in the near future, Suski told the Press & Journal in an April 30 email.

According to VSG’s website, a risk and vulnerability assessment “is a comprehensive examination of a school’s physical facilities and operational procedures.”

“The assessment will identify critical assets, threat potentials, and vulnerabilities in relation to threat potentials. It will focus on many different areas of the school, including vehicle access, parking, access control, classrooms, closed circuit TV, lighting, mail handling, utilities, intrusion detection, communications, and emergency preparedness,” according to the website.

Immediately following the Parkland tragedy, the state Department of Education’s Center for Safe Schools advised all school districts to contact State Police to do a risk and vulnerability assessment of school facilities, Suski said.

State Police do the assessment at no charge to a school district. However, Suski said she was told it could be “up to a year or more” by the time State Police can do such an assessment here, due to being inundated with requests from school districts all over Pennsylvania.

“Recently several superintendents in our region were discussing the delay and we were informed that there is a company owned by a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper that does the same assessments,” Suski said, referred to VSG. “Some of us decided to go in that direction so that we can get it done in a timely manner.”

“There is a substantial backlog, reaching into months in some cases” regarding state police being able to do the assessments for school districts, said Ryan Tarkowski, a State Police spokesman.

There have been “noticeable increases for safety presentations” requested of every State Police troop in the state, especially for active shooter presentations, Tarkowski said.

Often when State Police do an active shooter presentation, this leads to requests for the other types of security assessments that state police offer, including the risk and vulnerability assessments for school districts, Tarkowski said. The services are also promoted on the School Safety Resources section of the state police website.

State Police have trained more officers to do the assessments in recent years “so we are devoting more resources to it,” Tarkowski said. “We are working to address the backlog and prioritize the public schools.”

The school district has not had this type of comprehensive security assessment done of all schools before, Suski said. The district is looking to VSG to provide “recommendations for any areas that could present safety vulnerabilities for the district so that we can  address any possible identified weaknesses.”

VSG plans to do the assessments in the next few weeks, Suski said. The district hopes that a final report with recommendations can be received some time in June, so that any needed security enhancements can be put in place before start of the 2018-19 school year in August.

The school district has taken a number of steps to enhance security and safety over the past several years.

In August 2016 the school district instituted what is known as the ALICE system for active shooter protocol. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

Before that, school district staff only used lockdown as the protocol for active shooter situations, Suski said.

More recently at the start of this school year the district installed a new computer system to provide more security at entrances to all the schools.