New Safety and Security Committee Established, Ensures MHS Safety
While preparing for intruder drills, every student sees a presentation of the four E’s: educate, evade, escape and engage. However, MHS students have only ever practiced evading by locking doors and hiding away for the period of time.
On Oct. 5, however, a small section of the building, which is yet to be decided, of the building is going to practice the escape route as well. Students and teachers will make their way out of the building, similar to the fire drill. In a real intruder alert students and teachers would escape to safety points further away from school, but during the drill they will simply wait outside the building until the end of the drill.
“I think we’re always trying to, every year, to change things and make sure that we’re staying up to date and eliminate dangerous situations,” Alex Nelle, social studies teacher, said. “But there is always more that can be done.”
Nelle is part of the Quadrant Safety Committee, the committee that oversees MHS and all the middle and elementary schools in the MHS area, which is where he got the idea of switching from the routine intruder drill to escaping. He proposed the idea of practicing escape routes to Principal Dr. Greg Mathison last year.
Nelle said last year multiple educators who had received training in safety procedures met with the St. Louis County Police and discussed different policies practiced in other schools. Police suggested trying to practice escape routes because it was already practiced in multiple schools in the area, Nelle said.
“That’s why I made the suggestion that we should change our intruder drills and try to practice the escape part and make sure we are trying to do some of the different outcomes that we have,” Nelle said.
Nelle said the Quadrant Safety Committee focuses more on classroom safety rather than school-wide drills, making sure electrical outlets are not broken or things aren’t stacked up to the point that they can fall over and injure students.
When it comes to safety at MHS, Nelle said there will always be room for improvement.
Nelle said recent safety precautions, passed in a 2015 district bond issue, included putting film on windows to hold the glass together in case of shattering and changing locks to make it easier for teachers to lock doors from the inside of classrooms.
School Resource Officer Steve Aspinall said only part of the building will practice escaping in October to make it more safe.
“If we do the whole building at one time, it might be a little overwhelming,” Aspinall said.
Aspinall said that in the next intruder drill following the October drill, a different part of the building will practice escaping.
“That way, all the teachers will have a little experience doing the escape,” Aspinall said.
The change of the intruder drill practices is not the only additional change coming to MHS this year. Starting mid-September, a new Safety and Security Committee was established, consisting of teachers, administrators and four students, one from each grade level.
Aspinall said that while security is currently good at MHS there always can be improvements, which he hopes the committee will be able to advise on.
“I want everyone to be on the same page as to student and staff safety,” Aspinall said.
He said many people have a wide variety of opinions and ideas of how safety should be handled so the committee will hopefully open up a discussion and make it so common decisions on changes can be made.
Mary Olubogun, junior, was selected to be part of the committee and is excited to bring her input on safety.
When she found out that she was selected for the committee she said it was a complete surprise.
“I felt really humbled and honored that I would be able to have a say in what would happen,” Olubogun said.
With the majority of the MHS population being students, Olubogun said it is great to see students being represented in policy change initiatives that affect them directly.
Olubogun said she feels as if teachers are doing their absolute best to ensure student safety and make them feel safe.
“I do think that a lot of the students are still very anxious and worried and traumatized by just a lot of the stuff with the school shootings,” Olubogun said.
She said the new changes implemented this year, like the sign-in at the welcome center, have definitely helped her feel more secure.
She said she always looks out for people to ensure that they feel safe since she is very familiar with feeling anxious.
“I just want to be able to show to other people that you don’t have to be afraid,” Olubogun said.
Freshman Principal Carl Hudson said the committee will focus on reviewing policies and procedures already in place as well as on giving insight on improvements.
Currently, Hudson said he is trying to get permission from Principal Dr. Greg Mathison to be able to visit other schools and see what safety precautions they have in place, how effective they are and how they could be incorporated at MHS.
Hudson was first to discuss the possibility of creating a Safety and Security Committee with Dr. Mathison over the summer.
The committee is planned to consist of all teachers who volunteer (currently 25), administration, such as Dr. Mathison and Hudson himself, and a student from each grade level, selected by the corresponding grade principal. The committee first met Sept. 13 and will continue to meet every other month.
“There are a lot of good ideas besides [Dr. Mathison’s] head and my head,” Hudson said. “When others are given the opportunity to have their input, they can only make us better.”