Norridge, Harwood Heights schools focus on safety
Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld of Pennoyer School in Norridge, shown mentoring freshmen earlier this year, says the school's crisis manual is updated every year. Officials want to be vigilant in guarding student safety, he said. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Time
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:22PM
NORRIDGE — Intercoms, cameras and staff vigilance are some of the ways Norridge and Harwood Heights school districts maintain a safe environment.
In light of Friday’s school massacre in Connecticut, where 20 elementary school students and six school employees were killed, district officials not only shared their strategies but also offered parents suggestions on how to address the issue.
Pennoyer School in Norridge updates its crisis manual every year, said Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld.
“We review it the police and fire departments and with our staff,” he explained. “We have protocol in place to address serious crises or challenges to the safety of our students.”
He noted the staff stays vigilant and diligent in maintaining safety.
“Our condolences go out to the families of the victims,” he added. “It’s very sad when these kinds of stories come out.”
Union Ridge School in Harwood Heights uses myriad options to provide security.
The district has 32 surveillance cameras inside and outside the building; the cameras are monitored by Principal Mike Maguire, Assistant Principal Julie Mensik and the office secretaries.
“Union Ridge School uses a buzz system for our front doors,” Maguire said. “Guests must be buzzed in by the office.”
All doors are locked during the school day, and all teachers have phone systems inside the classroom, he said.
“Students are constantly reminded to not allow strangers in the building,” Maguire added.
The school consults frequently with the Harwood Heights Police Department.
Those collaborations include training in case an intruder tries to enter the school.
In addition, the Union Ridge School Safety Committee meets twice a year to discuss safety measures and protocols, Maguire noted.
In case of any medical emergency, the school nurse frequently trains staff members in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automatic external defibrillation, he added.
Norridge School District 80 reached out to the Police Department to reinforce its sense of security.
Officer Steven Deutschser, who usually is assigned to Ridgewood High School, made the rounds at Leigh and Giles elementary schools, said Superintendent Kerry Leiby.
The superintendent also asked that Norridge police provide extra patrols around the schools.
In a letter to parents, Leiby offered suggestions to help answer questions regarding the tragedy.
Topping the list is limiting a child’s exposure to news reports.
Next is finding out what the child knows, and gently correcting misinformation.
And in times of stress, parents should exercise extra patience as their children may have trouble concentrating or paying attention, Leiby noted.
School districts seeking additional information may turn to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Ronald Ellis, the board’s director of safety training, noted schools are being reminded to review their emergency and crisis response plans.
Anyone in the school should be empowered to activate emergency alerts if they observe danger or threatening situations, he advised.
The state board offers safety training on a regular basis.