School safety a top priority

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education heard Thursday night how the district is improving ongoing school safety.

Nicole Panton, district coordinator of curriculum and professional development, gave a presentation at Johnstown High School.

“It is our first priority to keep our students safe,” said Panton.

She noted current school safety “practices” implemented by the district, including secured single-door entry at its buildings. She said the district also utilizes surveillance cameras, monitors doors and hallways, has a visitor protocol, and individual teachers have the ability to call a “lockdown” if needed. She said the district also implements school safety teams.

“At the high school, they’re going to be reinstating student hall monitors,” Panton said.

She cautioned everyone connected to the district who notice staff walking around without name tags to question who they are.

“We’re doing regular safety drills,” Panton said.

She said the district this school year has already conducted two lockdown drills and a third is upcoming.

Panton said other “student support” related to school safety is making school counselors, psychologists and other services available. She said the district has excellent partnerships with local agencies.

She said the district also has “character education” take place, such as a bullying awareness program in all buildings.

The district is working with the Johnstown Police Department to provide training for staff, Panton said.

Next steps for the district will include: mental health “first aid” services, developing peer-to-peer mentoring programs, and annual staff training and protocols. She said the district has been working all along on school safety measures.

“We’re not trying to do knee-jerk reactions to these things,” Panton said.

By Kerry Minor

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