I know that Editor Mike Austreng has covered this issue in his column a few weeks ago, but I thought I should also cover the issue related to the investment in the marker boards that has recently been made. There has been quite a bit of coverage in state and national news about the decision. It is important to understand a number of pieces related to the marker board investment.
At the first school board meeting in April, Cold Spring-Richmond Chief of Police Phil Jones made a presentation to the board about the marker boards. The focus of the discussion was that this product could be an important safety and security step for the school district.
The product is a bullet-proof, portable marker board. The board is very light weight, maneuverable and useable. It is a marker board--but provides an extra layer of security to our emergency response system. As we implement and deploy the marker boards, we will also receive training related to the boards and how to adjust some of our security measures.
The marker board is, in essence, a bullet-proof board. It has the ability to "absorb" the impact and bullet or slug of very powerful weapons. The Cold Spring-Richmond Police Department has taken one of the boards and fired a number of different caliber weapons at it to compromise or damage the board without success! Some of the "ability" of the board will be demonstrated during district training!
Our administrative team and school board have been able to see demonstrations related to the product. It has not, yet, been made available to schools across the country--a few in the region of Maryland where the board is manufactured.
SAFETY AND SECURITY PROCESS
The deployment of the marker boards provides a tremendous opportunity to change our responses to issues of school violence—in many different forms. Certainly the boards are bullet-proof and provide some additional measure of protection than was previously available. But the boards can be used for much more than protecting against firearms.
The boards offer ability to better protect people and spaces or even allow an "offensive" response to situations. The boards are able to take quite an impact from many different forces—firearm, knife, physical assault, or other forces. The board can be used to disrupt or intervene in many physical interactions.
Because it is a durable product, the board can be used to knock weapons out of the hands of an intruder. It can be placed between people in the event of a physical attack. It can be used as a target or diversion from a difficult situation.
More than anything, it adds a layer of security that has not been a part of our system. It is much like the deployment of a fire extinguisher or other tools to assist in an emergency. Although a fire can be fought with other tools, the use of a fire extinguisher is an important addition to fire response and protection. The marker board becomes such an additional tool beyond the steps that are already in place.
Although we truly never hope to use the boards in response to school violence, their simple presence allows protection and responses that were never previously available. Ideally, they will never be used except for marker board purposes; if they must be used, the boards add another layer to our response system--a layer that has never before existed!
SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
The Coldspring Company (recent name change from Cold Spring Granite Company) was instrumental in the initiation of the project. For a number of reasons within the company, earlier in the winter, Coldspring contacted Chief Phil Jones about the product.
Coldspring extended an invitation to Chief Jones by letting him know that they would be willing to provide 75 of the marker boards for the District. The idea behind the donation was to allow the district to extend the ability to respond to emergency situations. The goal was to begin a process of placing boards within the district.
Beyond the initial donation from Coldspring, others have stepped forward to indicate that they would support the deployment of the boards—truly making this a community and school partnership. The Rollins and Bartel families have made a donation to secure 10 boards. We have received other calls and commitments of support for deployment of the boards. The partnership with community is certainly appreciated and important to our entire process.
DEPLOYMENT ACROSS DISTRICT
As discussion unfolded, the extent of protection afforded across the district became an important issue. The idea of securing a board for each core classroom was presented as a goal of the project. If some boards are secured—but not enough to spread them across the district—the question becomes one of which areas do we decide are not worthy of “protection”? It quickly became a conversation about making sure that each core classroom be offered the additional tool for security.
Beyond the classrooms, our discussions have also included other areas for potential deployment. When an emergency situation occurs, we need to look at the most likely respondents to the situation. We also need to consider our support areas—offices, common areas, kitchens, and other areas—to determine what kinds and what extent of tools are needed in those areas as well.
As these discussions unfolded, the district decision was to add to the donation so that we can deploy boards across the district. Although the 75 boards made a great start to the process, more boards were needed to ensure provision in each core classroom as well as securing them for support areas.
We will see and learn more in the days ahead. The first boards in the district have been secured and we are beginning to deploy the boards. We really want our staff members to have an understanding of the boards and be able to look at them before we completely deploy them.
As part of the implementation, we will receive training from Hardwire, the manufacturer of the board. Although they are fairly simple, there are a number of things to consider in the use of the boards and the many different applications of the board also need to be considered.
Part of the training with the boards also encourages the district to look at other processes and procedures that are used in an emergency situation. Location of people within a classroom, specific steps that might be taken, adjustments to procedures and other issues related to emergency situations become part of the conversation and training.
There will be considerably more detail to unfold at building staff meetings and in our training processes. We want to have the training unfold before the end of the school year, but also to become part of our ongoing training processes for our staff.
As a community and a school district, we are choosing to invest in a new product that has been made available to us by special invitation. The invitation came from Coldspring through their significant donation but also from the manufacturer, Hardwire, for deployment in Minnesota.
As I shared before, we truly hope that we never have to use the boards in response to school violence. They are, however, a tool whose presence allows protection and responses that were never previously available. Ideally, they will never be used except for marker board purposes; if they must be used, the boards add another layer to our response system.