Schools in Bogota, NJ, Increasing Security Measures for Next Year

Schools in Bogota, NJ, Increasing Security Measures for Next Year

Schools in Bogota, New Jersey, are increasing security measures before the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Schools in Bogota, New Jersey, are increasing security measures on campuses before the next school year begins. New security plans include armed guards, cameras and lockdown buttons to protect the district’s campuses against potential threats.

Last fall, Bogota school officials held a community forum to get feedback from parents, teachers and students on what would help them feel safe on campuses. The forum was in response to the Parkland, Fla. shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead.

Schools superintendent Damian Kennedy said the community feedback was overwhelming.

“People said they just felt safer if officers were in the buildings,” Kennedy said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of what education is these days — we have to worry about these things.”

In March, a task force made recommendations to improve school security at campuses across Bergen County. The recommendations included creating teams to identify students experiencing mental health problems, training school staff on security protocol and encouraging students, staff and administrators to use a cellphone app to anonymously report suspicious behavior and communicate during a lockdown.

Bogota is now looking for Class II special officers to provide security on its campuses. The officers will be hired through the Police Department, and officials plan to have them placed at schools by September. The borough and the district will split training and equipment costs, but the officer’s salaries will be paid by the district.

“This is a nice partnership with the Board of Education,” said Councilman Tom Napolitano, the police commissioner. “It’s a priority of the borough to protect our children.”

The district is also adding cameras to the high school to ensure there are no blind spots. The high school already has more than 40 cameras in place. Bixby and Steen elementary schools will each get 15 cameras, placed in hallways and classrooms.

The district is installing lockdown buttons throughout the three campuses. At the high school, teachers can also use their classroom phone to activate a lockdown.

When the lockdown button system is activated, alarms and flashing strobe lights will activate to alert people in the building. The Police Department will also be notified. In the past, Kennedy said, a lockdown could only be initiated by someone in the main office using the loudspeaker.

At Bogota High School, an old computer lab has been made into a space where students struggling with mental health issues can receive counseling. Students are also encourage to use a district tip line to report anything suspicious.

According to Kennedy, the security upgrades and officers will cost the district about $250,000 this year. CarePlus, which runs the counseling center, charges $90,000 a year for the services.

“The students and the teachers, they see these school shootings and everyone’s nervous about something happening here,” said Lisa Kohles, the Board of Education president. “I certainly don’t want to sit on the Board of Ed and something happens, and I didn’t do anything to protect the children and the staff. It’s time. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in now.”