On Tuesday, the Neosho R-5 Board of Education discussed safety issues at South Elementary.
Last week, Neosho police responded to a call of an intruder on campus. Neosho Police Chief David McCracken said someone had walked through the parking lot of the school. Police searched the grounds and wooded areas around the school, but found no one, McCracken said.
Tim Crawley, assistant superintendent of business and finance for the district, told the school board Tuesday administrators reacted quickly, putting the campus on lock-down status. A Watch Dog dad dropping off someone at the school scared the intruder off, Crawley said.
The district has been talking about enclosing the buildings at South Elementary as part of its long-range plan for district improvements and as an additional add on to the construction of a FEMA shelter. Under this plan, the separate school buildings will be enclosed under one roof, and doorways widened in order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Cari Southern, a member of the South School PTO, said the organization was interested in using its funds for a project to enhance school safety, such as a fence, but was reluctant to do so and have it torn down shortly afterward during an enclosure project.
"Even before this incident happened, parents were discussing we would use that money to build a fence, but we didn't want to put it up and then tear it down," she said.
Southern said while she recognizes the school has put new security measures in place, such as calling ahead on walkie talkies — more accessible than an intercom system in areas such as the playground — and designating a bus drop off area and a parent drop off area instead of having children enter the building through three separate entrances, concerns remained.
Crawley mentioned one of the summer maintenance projects, installing cameras at South Elementary to monitor the campus.
Southern said South principal Lee Woodward told her the day after the intruder incident that the school had not received many telephone calls.
"I said 'Well, there's no reason to call — you handled it perfectly,' but the threat is still there, the opportunity for threat is still there," Southern said. "I know there's long-range plans, and that's great, but we have kids in there right now. What do we do in the interim? There are days there aren't a watchdog dad there.
"I'm an accountant. I don't want to pay for a fence that will, in 18 months, be torn down. What do we need to do to secure the location? Do we need a resource officer up there? I'm all for cameras and calling ahead, but for me that means we know in 15 minutes that a kid's been taken, not an hour."
Page 2 of 2 - Currently, the district is conducting a telephone survey to get input from district patrons on enclosing add on projects in conjunction with the FEMA shelter. Meanwhile, board president Brett Day said the district plans public input sessions as well, and encouraged PTO members to attend and voice their concerns.
"People who don't have kids going to South don't know about this particular issue, but I bet it will be important to them," Day said. "And if we can start building some consensus on what our priorities in the district are, we can go somewhere.
"In the meantime, we're not going to ignore the short-term either. We've got to get this long-term plan put together, but the safety of our kids is important to us. So that's something we will be looking at as well. When you deal with limited resources, sometimes it takes a while to get where you need to be."
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More on Tuesday's meeting will be in Thursday's edition of the Neosho Daily News.