Letter to the Editor
Published 11:26 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Thank you for your excellent observations on school safety in last Wednesday’s edition. Making schools the safe havens they need to be are among the most serious problems in education today. But schools and school leaders must walk a very fine line. We can’t have our schools looking like jails or prisons.
Your suggestion about making only administrative offices available to visitors is a good one. Tall fences should surround school property. Fenced pathways leading from a parking lot gate directly to the administrative areas are relatively inexpensive. And the offices in most of our public schools can be separated from the classroom areas by electronic locks.
Other areas? Maybe not so simple. Gymnasiums and outdoor sports areas have to be accessible to large numbers of people and, if necessary, need escape and evacuation access too.
At least one school needs some serious retrofitting. You mentioned Fifth Ward Elementary School as one that uses a buzzer and security cameras, but I’m sure you know the office area is actually backwards, facing away from the school’s main entrance. A staff member can look onto a small TV monitor but cannot look directly at the person or persons who want to come in. And there is no way to communicate with the people waiting outside.
The key issue, of course, is money.
Louisiana schools are seriously underfunded, and a good chunk of local tax money is being diverted to pay a billion-dollar shortfall in the teachers’ retirement system. Funding teacher retirement is supposed to be a state function, but BESE and the Legislature have passed the buck to St. John Public Schools and the other local school districts.
The only way to grow Louisiana’s economy is by pouring money into education from pre-K to college. But we can’t even afford to keep our children safe from crazy knuckleheads bringing AK-47s with them.
former School Board member