By Megan Kelley
ORION TWP. — On Monday, Lake Orion Community Schools held their first ever Safety Summit at Lake Orion High School to review the district’s safety and security practices, give information on potential future improvements and answer questions from parents and community members.
Before and after the presentation, several community groups and organizations that LOCS works with tended booths with additional information on things like the OAYA (Orion Area Youth Assistance), NOCC (North Oakland Community Coalition), Ok2Say, Secure Education Consultants, Safe Ed. and others.
Superintendent Ben Kirby hosted the summit, with several key members of administration and the district’s safety committee present, as well as Village of Lake Orion Police Chief Harold Rossman, Orion Township Substation Commander Darren Ofiara and Lieutenant Stephen Dooley from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re living in an unprecedented time. There’s been tragedies across the country that have been well documented. There’s been a number of Swatting incidents across the country, as well as nearby, and certainly at our malls recently that really impact the response teams that are in communities,” Kirby said. “Safety and security, in our belief, it’s certainly the responsibility we have. It’s a collaborative responsibility for the community as well, we all play a part in this. At Lake Orion Community Schools we believe we have a responsibility to provide a safe, welcoming and equitable learning environment where all individuals are respected and valued.”
On the agenda for the night was to review the district’s preventative strategies, student supports and risk assessment, emergency response and responses to community questions.
“We will reveal some of the strategies and the actions taken in assuring the work we’ve accomplished,” Kirby said. “There are some strategies that remain confidential for a variety of safety reasons so we won’t necessarily share everything but every solution that we come up with, and this is something that happens all across America, that every solution can create other problems. So, we have to think through all of these actions for the unintended consequences that may exist.”
Kirby also highlighted the Five D’s: deter, delay, defuse, defend and debrief.
“What types of things can we do to try to deter intruders or those with bad intentions from coming into the building? What can we do to delay (them) if they do approach our buildings? And then, what can we do to defuse problems? What can we do to defend problems if they do occur? And lastly, if we do have an incident, to debrief about the situation and to try to get better from it,” said Kirby.
“Having caring and inclusive schools is step one to safety,” Kirby said. “The preventative strategies help manage concerns before they impact those of us within the school.”
Assistant Superintendent John Fitzgerald, along with Director of Operations Wes Goodman and LOHS Assistant Principal Vernon Burden, discussed the district’s preventative strategies.
According to Fitzgerald, about 10 years ago the district safety committee began working with local law enforcement (LOPD, OCSO and the fire department) who would review the district facilities through an audit perspective and determine how LOCS can improve their safety and security. Through that process, the district developed what they call a three-ring strategy.
“These three rings really speak to the physical nature of facilities from the preventative aspect of security protection for the staff and the children,” Fitzgerald said. “As we’ve been doing this over the last 10 years, thanks to approaches through the bond program, things like that, we developed new exteriors to the building and things of that nature.”
In January 2022, LOCS partnered with Secure Education Consultants who performed a district audit on both the district’s physical capabilities as well as protocols. From the report the district received building-specific recommendations for improvements. The audit report also revealed that LOCS ranked in the top five percent in the state in terms of preparedness.
The three-ring strategy is essentially the three stages of potential entry into a LOCS building.
The first ring are the building grounds and exterior doors.
“If you were to walk into the front door over at Orion Oaks Elementary and then turn around and look out, from that door looking out is the first ring,” Fitzgerald said. “The observation of what’s coming up to the building, parking lots, all the surrounding areas and the actual front door itself.”
The first ring includes the view and control of grounds, the approach to a facility, building envelope, cameras, swipe key card access for staff to facilities and building alarms.
Much of the work that has been accomplished is due in part to the successful 2018 bond proposal, which allowed the district to redesign a good amount of the drop off loops and parking lots at several buildings.
Additionally, all facilities have one single entry point that can only be accessed either by being buzzed in by administrative personnel or by those who have a card access. One thing to note about the swipe cards is that with new technology the district is able to control which cards work at which buildings and during what times.
“Each one of our employees and staff all carry a card access. If we have an employee that works Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, we can control their access to only work at the particular building from 9 a.m. to noon,” Goodman said. “If someone loses a card, it’s easy to delete it out of the system versus if you lose a physical key, those can be duplicated at the hardware store so that’s a big improvement.”
Moreover, police and fire personnel all have key fobs that will grant them access to any district building at any time. So, if there is an emergency they will be able to enter any building without issue.
The second ring is the secure vestibule as well as the administration office.
“Once you’re in that first vestibule, administrative personnel will ask you who you are and what you’re here for; they’re vetting your reason for being here. Once you are OK’d, you are accessed into the administrative office through the next set of doors. There’s a little more conversation, some indication information…then you pass into the interior of the building,” said Fitzgerald. “That piece between the very first door and leaving the administrative offices is the second ring.”
Inside the office, the district has implemented a button system that is linked to PA systems throughout the building to indicate if there is an emergency and of what kind including severe weather, shelter in place and lockdown.
The third ring is once someone is inside the building.
“The third ring of our preventative safety strategies include all elements on the interior of the building such as classrooms, hallways, stairwells or offices. A major component of school safety is communication and classroom hardware,” Burden said.
Classroom doors are kept locked during the school day, most classrooms are also equipped with a secondary locking system, staff use long distance radios and classroom phones to communicate during the day and cameras provide visuals that are also monitored.
Other safety protocols that can be found throughout buildings are school resource officers from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office that service the high school and middle schools, emergency response manuals, which are located in every room in the district, Safe-Ed campus monitors, continued partnerships with local emergency personnel as well as encouraging members of the community to utilize the anonymous reporting tool OK2SAY if they have knowledge of anything that could potentially harm a student or the school community.
See next week’s issue for part 2 of this story.
By Megan Kelley