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Southold School District to hire full-time security guard

The Southold School District plans to hire a full-time security guard, the first in the district’s century-old history.

Superintendent David Gamberg made the announcement at Wednesday evening’s Board of Education meeting as part of a presentation detailing steps to increase school safety, something that has gained national traction following the deadly shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Mr. Gamberg said the security guard would be unarmed. The district currently employs a part-time security guard who works at night while construction is being done.

Other improvements, which have been in the works prior to the Feb. 14 shooting, include adding surveillance cameras inside and outside of the buildings, additional lighting to the parking lot and moving the special education office from the middle of the building to near the rest of the administrative offices, which would help keep visitors in a centralized area of the school. The improvements would be funded through the ongoing capital bond that was approved in 2015, Mr. Gamberg said.

Alarm buzzers will be added to doors in the high school building similar to those already installed on the doors facing Oaklawn Avenue.

“I’m not standing here today to tell you we’ve got this building parametrically sealed,” Mr. Gamberg said. “What I am telling you is that of the three [alarms] right now, there is probably going to be seven or eight more installed.”

The district is also using smart bond money, which is money the school receives through the state toward security or technology measures, to install a visitor management system at the high school. This will require guests have their licenses scanned, which could alert those at the front desk to any red flags.

Lastly, the district is proposing to add an advisory period at the secondary level, a time where a small group of students meet with a teacher every school day for the entirety of their secondary education. It’s modeled after a program at the Shoreham-Wading River School District, where students meet with a teacher for 15-20 minutes.

“We have heard many, many, many, many times that the number one deterrent is connectedness and relationships,” Mr. Gamberg said. “That’s the number one factor if we want to really guard against the possibility of something tragic happening.”

District officials, such as school psychologists and guidance counselors from both Southold and Greenport, recently completed a four-day training program on a school-based mental health program led by Dr. Melissa Reeves, an associate professor at Winthrop University.

The district is also nearing completion of a 16-page school district vulnerability assessment, showing its strengths and weaknesses and helping it develop a plan for future changes.

Dozens of parents and students attended Wednesday’s meeting to share concerns, ask questions and hear the new developments in the district’s safety plan.

“I heard the plans and I’m very encouraged,” resident Tom Kennedy said, praising the district’s initiative to add advisory. “But we need to balance that with not just talking about it but really acting on it.”

Some questions included: if the elementary school entrance would change, increasing staff training, hiring an independent contractor to make safety recommendations and looking into getting a school resource police officer.

Suggestions included keeping lines of communication open and keeping parents informed about safety concerns and changes and adding students to the district’s safety committee.

Junior Anakin Mignone asked if the district could host drills during lunch periods and times when students are changing classes so that they’re not only prepared if something happens during class time, but during all times of the school day.

After the hour-long discussion, the board thanked the audience for attending and sharing their suggestions and concerns.

“Whether you spoke or you didn’t speak, your physical presence made a statement,” Mr. Gamberg said. “All the students, all the parents, all the families, I truly appreciate it.”

Photo caption: Southold Superintendent David Gamberg speaks at Wednesday’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

CORRECTION: The names of the Anakin Mignone and Dr. Melissa Reeves were incorrect in an earlier version of the article.

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