JOLIET – The safety coordinator for Joliet Township High Schools recently outlined measures taken to keep students safe in school.
Security measures and protocols are revisited numerous times throughout the school year in order to ensure that during any emergency – violence or weather-related – the staff and students are prepared, said Chris Olson, safety and security coordinator for Joliet Central, West and Alternate high schools.
“There are always things we can’t control, but we should be prepared and have a plan,” Olson said.
Emergency plans are signed off on annually, but “multiple conversations are held with local agencies on an ongoing basis to revise and update security plans,” according to a report presented to the school board last week.
The district has different protocols in place for various scenarios from fires and tornadoes, to bomb threats and intruders with guns, Olson said. These are shared only with staff, faculty and local police and fire departments.
Students do sit on safety committees but are not apprised of specific emergency plans, he said.
At least three safety meetings are held at each school, while safety committees look at plans quarterly, according to Olson. Faculty in each school also review plans at monthly meetings. Administrators do role playing, presentations and give feedback at their annual retreat. Staff also have access to safety plans on the district’s website.
“I think we have plans in place and a great faculty and staff that take this seriously, and we are ready to handle [any situations that arise],” Olson said.
Students participate in numerous drills throughout the school year. The state has a minimum number of drill requirements but Joliet’s schools often do more than that in compliance with Joliet ordinances.
Three fire drills are required by the Illinois State Board of Education, but Joliet requires a minimum of eight. One full lockdown for active shooter scenarios is required, but all three buildings do a minimum of two with the Joliet Police Department, according to Olson’s report.
All schools also do two bus evacuation drills and participate in one statewide tornado drill.
Last year, for the first time, the district also participated in a national earthquake drill.
The district has a school violence hotline – 1-800- 477-0024 – that students and parents can call to anonymously alert officials about threats of violence.
Also, all three school buildings require visitors to pass through metal detectors. Signs prohibiting guns are placed at building entrances, parking lots and athletic complexes as required by Illinois now that the state allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons, Olson said.
Adult visitors must leave their driver’s licenses in the main office after being screened through a software program which includes a comprehensive database of registered sex offenders
Upgraded security equipment is integral to school safety, Olson said.
“We have great technology in place but every year there is something new that can make our plans work better,” he said.
The district recently received a grant from the Illinois School Security Program which will be used to update technology the schools have in place now.