CLEARFIELD – At last night’s meeting, parents confronted members of the Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors with concerns about school safety protocols.
Jennifer Campolong of Clearfield raised concerns after an incident occurred on April 1. Clearfield Middle School students, she said, left school property and went to the Clearfield Elementary School.
Once there she said the CMS students accessed a CES recess area, which isn’t fenced in. “They didn’t belong there and had easy access,” said Campolong.
She noted that the CMS students threatened to hurt the elementary children if they told their teacher and directed a bomb threat toward the school. One elementary student, she said, was punched and tripped during the incident.
Campolong believed the district should have alerted the other schools about the missing CMS students, as well as about them going onto the CES property. “These days you can’t leave it up to chance. You have to be more proactive,” she said.
She pointed out that while outside for their recess period teachers aren’t equipped to alert authorities to carry out school safety protocol. Also, she said parents should have been notified of the breach of security at two schools rather than hearing from their children who were “worked up” over the incident.
Campolong offered the district suggestions for improving the safety protocols in its schools. She said the district should consider equipping its teachers with walkie-talkies for outdoor recess, placing cameras inside and outside of the school, fencing in the field area to the right of the CES, creating a community taskforce focused on school safety efforts, enforcing a no tolerance policy for such incidents, etc.
“We want teachers to have every tool available to them,” said Campolong.
Dawn Roussey of Clearfield advised the board that she learned of the April 1 incident at the CES from her daughter. She called the school the next day and learned the CMS students had been identified and the matter was “being handled.”
Days later, she said her daughter informed her that the students were told not to discuss the CES incident inside or outside of class. After doing her own research, Roussey found the Lawrence Township police were contacted when the students were discovered missing from the CMS but not regarding the threats and assault at the CES.
Roussey urged school board members to investigate the April 1 incident, determine what happened at the CES and to implement school safety protocols to prevent it from happening again.
Tim Winters of Clearfield was the last person to raise school safety concerns. He was the most concerned about the Lawrence Township police not being engaged after there had been a security breach at two schools within the district. Winters also pointed out that funding is available for School Resource/Police Officers through the state Department of Education; however, he said the PDE Web site shows that the CASD hasn’t applied for any funding.
Before the start of the regular meeting, Campolong asked school board members what would come of the parents’ concerns. Board President Mary Anne Jackson indicated they would further discuss their concerns with the administration and assured her they wanted teachers to have the resources to handle these situations.
Jackson told Campolong that if she had more specific questions, she could make arrangements to discuss them with members of the administration. Board member Jennifer Wallace assured Campolong, as well, saying, “We will take care of these problems.”
After the meeting, Superintendent Terry Struble said the district has concerns every day about keeping its students, faculty and staff safe and preventing an incident, such as the stabbing at Franklin Regional. He said the Lawrence Township police were involved when the CMS students went missing and also in handling the incident at the CES.
So far as notifying parents of such an incident, Struble said it would be something for the district’s administration to consider for the future.
Other parents expressed concerns about the district’s consideration of extending the elementary school day. Parents said it would neither be productive nor beneficial for the younger children. Parent Shannon Collar pointed out it would make the school day even longer for elementary children who live outside of Clearfield.
Afterward, Struble explained they’re considering setting the teacher day as 8:25 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. For students, he said, they would arrive between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. with school beginning at 8:50 a.m. Right now, Struble said they were looking at school dismissal being at 3:30 p.m.
When asked for further explanation, he explained the current fifth- and sixth-grade students spend seven hours and 10 minutes in school, and they do not want to greatly shorten their school day. Elementary students, he said, are currently in school for about six hours. With CES becoming a K-6 campus, he said they wanted to “find a balance” between the two.
According to him, the Girard-Goshen bus run would remain the same, as those students already come into the CES. He said students from the Bradford Township area would have the option of either riding home on their bus, or taking a direct shuttle from the CES to the Bigler YMCA.
However, Struble said the district was still figuring out after-school student pick-ups. He wasn’t sure if they would try doing it all simultaneously at student dismissal, or if they would wait until busses departed from the school.
Struble said the district continues to look for ways to minimize the impact of the school building consolidation on its students.