by Jonathan Weaver
Two-way radio communication at a local technical school would greatly improve school security, according to one local official.
Lenape Technical School Special Programs Coordinator Carla Thimons further explained the need for such during discussion on the Manor Township school’s $18,000 Pennsylvania Department of Education Safe School Initiative Competitive Targeted Grant award.
“These will truly help us feel better about safety overall, because communication is key,” Thimons said.
She said several programs at the technical school provide a unique challenge where areas of the building would not be able to listen to announcements over the public address system, and the radios would provide necessary internal communication with teachers and staff.
Thimons said the grant funds were accepted by the Joint Operating Committee last month, and funding received, but the radios have not been purchased yet. She explained officials want to coordinate efforts with the Armstrong County Department of Public Safety to ensure that communication will be loud-and-clear.
“We want to determine the best purchase,” Thimons said. “We have an idea in mind what we want, but we want to coordinate with (the Department of Public Safety.)”
Radios are to be expected to be carried in the school hallways by officials by the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Thimons, who has been Special Programs Coordinator for 10 years and was previously the technical school’s principal, coordinates special education, grant writing and safety procedures at the school.
Besides the two-way radios, Thimons said school officials are planning to hold school wide drills, including a mass-evacuation drill.
Joint Operating Committee members also unanimously approved the hire of Night Watchman Samantha Walker, retroactive to March 7.
Principal Karen Brock last month said the school used to have night watchmen, but another one needed to be hired to replace that individual.
Armstrong School District also received Safe School Initiative Competitive Targeted Grant funding in the amount of $25,000, and put the money toward the purchase of new and updated security cameras “as another layer of security throughout the district,” according to School Superintendent Stan Chapp in March.
Director of Technology and Information Services Anthony Grenda said about 16 surveillance cameras will be added to the interior and exterior of Elderton and Shannock Valley Elementary Schools. He hopes those cameras are installed by the end of the current school year. Several have already been installed, he said earlier this week.
Apollo-Ridge and Leechburg Area School Districts also received $25,000 in grant funds.
Earlier this year, Armstrong also received $40,000 in the state’s Safe Schools Grant Program for utilization of a school police officer. Those officers have also been already utilized throughout the district.
The Lenape Tech Joint Operating Committee meets again Thursday evening, beginning with a 6:30PM public budget session at the school.