Lakeville Area Schools is committed to providing learning environments that are safe, secure and welcoming for our students and staff.
In a world where school safety measures are at the forefront of public and community discussion, it has been, and will continue to be a critical duty of everyone in the Lakeville Area community to help create and support safe, welcoming and nurturing schools and community facilities.
Over the course of the last four years, the District has established and created a Security and Emergency Management (SEM) work group to discuss, review and implement security strategies across our schools and buildings. Implementation of the SEM work group provided environment-specific feedback and included representation from our elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, key program staff, as well as local law enforcement to ensure a multi-tiered response structure.
“When the SEM work group first convened, the focus was around the need for development of an active-shooter training for staff in partnership with Lakeville Police Department,” said Lisa Holien, the District’s student support services coordinator. “Since that time, the work group has developed a continuum of prevention and early intervention strategies, in-school supports and response protocols.”
The SEM work group’s development of the Safety and Security Long-Range Plan, has provided a framework for systematic implementation of procedures and security measures District-wide. From our Emergency Action Procedures, to active-shooter training for staff, to the establishment of crisis teams and enhanced mental health supports for our students, our schools are safer than ever before. Thanks to the support of our community, the 2015 referendum helped to fund the deployment of Access Control Systems for increased visitor management, and additional security enhancements including cameras, door locks and security staff to enhance security infrastructure.
Since 1996, the District and the Lakeville Area Police Department have deployed a School Resource Officer program to support safety and crime prevention in our schools. The officers, led by Lieutenant Jim Puncochar who oversees the SRO program, work closely with our school administrators in an effort to create safer environments for students.
“The best part of the SRO program is the relationships they build with students,” said Puncochar. “Our schools are micro-communities, and the students learn to trust our officers because they are with them all day. The officers even guest lecture for courses like criminal justice throughout the district.”
“The SEM work group is important because it brings different perspectives to the table from our SROs, to administrators to school officials,” said Puncochar. “As public safety officers, our SROs bring (to the work group) the perspective of threat assessment and emergency response, which is critical to a strong safety and security response plan.”
While we are proud of the essential work completed to date to ensure safer and secure schools, this work unfortunately never ends. Enhanced safety and security measures are key focus areas of the newly adopted Strategic Plan. To help lead this critical work, the District recently hired Safety and Security Coordinator Damien Nelson, who brings over 20 years of security management experience to Lakeville Area Schools. Under his leadership, and over the next year, the SEM work group will continue to evaluate and prioritize secured levy spending dollars to model security industry best practices.
“The work for this winter and spring includes reviewing and enhancing our Emergency Action Procedures, and working to deploy site-specific support teams to help us better identify and support safety-related initiatives and training in our schools,” said Nelson. “Furthermore, the development of threat assessment teams, aligned with the District’s commitment to Social-Emotional Learning, will help identify, address and deter emerging risks.”
This spring, with funding provided from the 2015 referendum and Safe Schools grant, improvements will be made to our visitor management system at our high schools, including enhancements to public entrances to maintain tighter control of visitor access throughout the day. Upgrades are also nearing completion at all three middle schools in order to improve visibility to the interior and exterior of sites.
In October, the District was one of 90 districts across the state to receive a school safety grant from the Minnesota Department of Education for $285,800 for safety improvements at Kenwood Trail Middle School. The middle school is one of just 123 school buildings across the state awarded grant dollars from funding passed by Governor Mark Dayton and the 2018 Legislature. The grant funding will go towards several site security enhancements including a secure site entry, improved emergency notification and detection systems, site lockdown capabilities and digital communication equipment.
Through effective planning and training, we will continue strive to enhance the District-wide response protocols to maintain a secure and welcoming environment for our students and all stakeholders. From strengthened entries, to better detection tools and improved internal communication systems, our work continues. Future needs require enhanced technology and infrastructure, which are key and essential elements of sustaining safe schools and further protecting our students and staff.