Safety first at West Irondequoit

Safety first at West Irondequoit
Posted on 09/13/2019

Keeping students, staff and buildings safe has never been a higher priority than right now and the West Irondequoit Central School District continues to improve security measures to ensure that.  Beyond just procedural changes, such as the implementation of the Raptor Visitation Management system in all 10 school buildings, critical staff members recently underwent training by Armoured One. The school safety and security company out of Syracuse ¬≠teaches security staff and “greeters,” such as office personnel who are the first line of defense, how to sharpen their situational awareness of potential threats to a school.

“What I took away was making sure you have a tentative plan of action pre-established in case something happens,” says Gretchen Tortora, a 17-year employee who is the secretary at Brookview Elementary. “Often I think we aren’t proactive about thinking what we may have to do.”

Tortora said she has analyzed her work and office space more closely, formulating a plan to protect students and herself. The training, which included more than 35 WICSD staff members, also taught Tortora that while plans are good, one must be able to think swiftly. How do you resolve a potential problem – or prevent one?

“That training is great for everyone. It’s so important to know how to identify a possible threat before it’s too late,” says Tony Onorato, a former police officer with SWAT training who is about to start his second year as a member of WICSD’s security crew.

Onorato said he was impressed with Armoured One’s presentation and instruction. Its staff detailed what to look for in a visitor’s body language or facial expression or mannerisms. The goal: Empower WICSD staff so they can identify possible concerns and manage them. Raptor is the most widely used visitor management system in the country. It scans a visitor’s government-issued ID and checks it against a sex-offender database or any other custom alerts set up by the school. Once cleared, Raptor prints a visitor badge with a photo, name, date, time and destination.

“It’s important for us to accurately know at all times who is in our buildings and where they are going,” said WICSD Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Johnson. That includes students.

Irondequoit High School has reduced access points into and out of the building during the school day under first-year Principal, Ms. Alecia Zipp-McLaughlin. New administrative work stations for staff also have been placed in hallways to improve supervision and give staff more visibility to students throughout the day and the building.

Another important change is also happening at IHS to combat the vaping issue among teens. Bathroom sensors called “FlySense,” which already being used by more than a thousand schools worldwide, are being tested by our staff. These multi-sense devices can detect vaping, smoke and even high decibel levels that may indicate loud or violent behavior where school cameras can’t be used. If sensors are tripped, FlySense sends an immediate alert to our staff. WICSD Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor Lindsay Snyder has worked closely with the IHS administrative team to design a three-pronged approach to educating students and handling violators. That includes using restorative practices to create more positive future outcomes.

"By providing education and intervention at these key moments, we hope to get to the root cause associated with their use and then help students identify healthy alternatives to meet these needs," says Lindsay Snyder, WICSD’s Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor and Youth Intervention Specialist.

“Safety first” is stressed beyond our campus footprint, too. We need cooperation from the community at large. If you see anything that raises concern, use the Safe School Helpline. It allows callers to give information anonymously. Please call (800) 418-6423, ext. 359 or text 66746 (use TIPS in the message).