A top Oklahoma City Public Schools administrator is recommending more lockdown drills and more school resource officers in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre.
State law requires schools to practice lockdown drills once per semester, but Chief Operations Officer Jim Burkey said Oklahoma City schools should do four.
“We need to make these security drills and lockdowns as familiar with the students as we have tornado drills,” Burkey said. “You grow up in Oklahoma, when the siren goes off, especially in a school, you know what you're supposed to do. We need to have that same familiarity with staff and students.”
Burkey said the lockdown drills need to be supervised by law enforcement, who can offer suggestions. The same strategy has worked in the past for the district.
“The best fire drills we have is when the Oklahoma City Fire Department is there and we've got a professional set of eyes on what's occurring there,” Burkey said. “There are things as an administrator that you overlook on a fire drill.”
District 1 board member Lyn Watson asked Burkey what he would do to improve district safety if money were no object.
Burkey's answer was simple: more school resource officers.
All the district middle and high schools have school resource officers, but none of the 55 elementary schools do, Burkey said.
Local law enforcement has been helpful and active since the Connecticut shooting, Burkey said.
Police officers have been visiting schools without resource officers.
Another key to student safety is perimeter security, Burkey said. All outside doors should be locked, and the public should only be allowed to entry through one doorway, which should go by the office. Nearly all schools already have sign-in technology that photographs all visitors.
It's a challenge, said Phil Horning, vice chairman of the school board.
“I'm under the impression that many of our elementary schools aren't set up that way,” Horning said.
For some schools, the solution is structural changes, but all employees must be vigilant, Burkey said.
The district safety committee regularly reviews procedures and policies, such as fire prevention or tornado drills.
The group has been especially focused on physical safety in the past few weeks.
One of the committee's regular projects, for example, is to help ensure law officers have the most up-to-date school floor plans available, which can be challenging with so many MAPS construction projects across the district.
In other business
The school board rejected two charter school applications: Lighthouse of Hope Academy and Harper Academy. The applicants will have 30 days to make adjustments to their applications for the board to reconsider.
District 2 board member Gail Vines announced she will not seek re-election, though she did file for re-election. She said she supports her opponent, Justin Ellis.
Cyndy McKinney was appointed to serve as the interim director of enterprise services. She succeeds Marvin Massey, who retired.