Poughkeepsie schools will be getting a new lockdown system, metal detectors, bag scanners and an additional school resource officer for its middle school.
The measures will be covered by two federal grants totaling $575,000 announced by the district Wednesday.
The funding is the latest effort to invest in the safety of the district, amid a rash of gun violence among the city’s school-aged residents and incidents that included a November shooting outside the high school.
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A $500,000 School Violence Prevention Grant will be used to purchase and install two handheld metal detectors at the high and middle schools, bag scanning stations, a virtual lockdown system, as mass notification system, and safety glazing to first floor windows in all district buildings.
The district is in the process of completing a $98 million capital improvement project that was approved last year, and Superintendent Eric Rosser said some of these measures were part of that plan.
“But these additional dollars will allow us to go even deeper into that work in being able to bring our schools into the 21st century and have up-to-date technology that will allow us to be able to strengthen our safety posture as a district,” Rosser said.
A $75,000 grant awarded to the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Service hiring program grant, will be used to finance the middle school’s SRO. Det. Karen Zirbel has already served as SRO in the district, splitting time between the high and middle schools.
“I know the importance of bridging the gap between law enforcement and our community,” Rosser said. “While the SROs are in our buildings they are there to develop relationships to be able to support the needs of children. As Zirbel has demonstrated for four years now, the SRO model here in the PCSD is effective in addressing the myriad of needs that the children might have.”
A new SRO
Since the start of the school year, Zirbel has called for back-up several times when conflict between students escalated.
The grant will allow her to focus her efforts at the high school while another member of the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department will serve as the SRO at the middle school.
“Our intent is to do crisis intervention and de-escalate situations,” City of Poughkeepsie police Capt. Richard Wilson said. “That is paramount to address these issues of violence.”
As a detective, Zirbel not only works to connect with students and the community, but she also works with the department on case investigations. The role of the new officer will be to focus on developing connections with students at all ages.
“I feel like we started this hybrid model (of having a detective involved and addressing other issues) and it feels like everyone else is falling in line,” Zirbel said. “Now a lot of the training is community resource officer based because of the shift to a social work kind of role.”
Upgrades to safety
Within the next six months the district plans to implement a new lockdown system in which both district leadership and city police will have access to cameras and computers to improve response times and get a more precise indication of where an incident occurred.
In addition to the lockdown system, the district is looking to purchase two handheld metal detectors for the high and middle schools along with scanning stations that will alleviate morning traffic at both buildings. the district is also looking to put safety glazing on first floor windows in all its buildings.
Previously, Dutchess County earmarked at least $140,000 to be allocated to the Poughkeepsie school district for mental health trauma training for students and staff members. All roughly 800 district staff members will undergo an eight-hour training session in dealing with trauma and conflict. Sixty students will be able to take part in an evidence-based, multi-installment program in which trained law enforcement officers help them to become mentors to other students in the school who may be dealing with violence.
Katelyn Cordero is the education reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal: email@example.com; Twitter: @KatelynCordero.