Borough Safety Director Frank Jordan laid out the city’s school safety plans at Community Education Council District 21’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 6 at Seth Low Junior High School.
Jordan explained that there are three different types of safety drills: evacuations, shelter-ins and lockdowns.
“This plan isn’t a knee-jerk reaction [to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School],” he said. “This is three years in the making.”
Jordan said that an evacuation drill is just like a fire drill, and is, “well practiced and done multiple times a year.”
A shelter-in isn’t like the shelter drills of old, when students were required to stand in hallways, away from doors and windows, in case of some kind of explosion.
“It happens when there’s a situation outside that we want to keep outside,” Jordan said, noting that these types of drills take place if something like a bank robbery is happening near the school building.
“The main door gets locked by the school safety officer and the building response team secures exits to make sure nothing is compromised,” he said. “No one can come in or out.”
Another type of drill is a soft lockdown, which takes place if there is a situation that presents no imminent danger, such as a missing student.
“People can go in and out of the building, but not kids,” Jordan said.
However, if someone is armed at the school, or if there is a dangerous situation, the school puts in place a hard lockdown.
“Police are called and people go away from windows and out of view,” Jordan said. “No one is to talk to the [person in question], just police.”
Mark Treyger spoke on behalf of Assemblymember Bill Colton. He said that the assemblymember is in the process of writing legislation that would require a certain number of lockdown drills throughout the year.
“To our knowledge, the state only mandates 12 fire drills a year, but there is no requirement for lockdown drills,” Treyger said. “These drills will also expose weaknesses in the system.”
Jordan also noted that each school has at least one school safety officer, equipped with a citywide radio, who can call for help in case of an emergency. Police will arrive in a matter of minutes, Jordan assured.
In addition, each school has a safety plan specific to the building’s layout.
But some parents still had concerns.
CEC member Nicole Pacheco-Rosario said that when she visited her child’s school, P.S. 97 on Stillwell Avenue, she was “freaked out” that she was able to enter the schoolyard, which has trailer classrooms in it, “with such ease.”
District 21 Superintendent Isabel DiMola said that the trailer doors automatically lock when closed and windows have plates over them and cannot be broken.
Jordan said that locked-up schoolyards may be breaking the fire code.
“You can’t put locks on all of the gates because in case of a fire, you won’t be able to get out,” he explained.
One parent also noted that all first floor windows on school buildings have gates on them, so they can’t be broken into the way they were by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook.