JENNINGS, Mo. — School districts across the St. Louis region have developed safety plans to protect their students and staff ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
Many groups across the nation have begun to take a closer look at protocol in response to recent mass shootings and other crimes where schools have become a target.
Superintendent Dr. Paula Knight is getting ready to welcome 2500 students across nine buildings in the Jennings School District in St. Louis County.
For many leaders in her shoes, safety is paramount.
"You hate to be able to say you're excited to talk about it because it's kind of an oxymoron but because we're talking about the safety of young people, we are putting in some new structures in place for the new school year," Knight said.
The district will implement a new ID card scanning system with a background check for visitors, expand its security team from one to three, with more security officers and SRO, and implement cell phone pouches for students to store their devices during the school day in order to eliminate distractions and help reduce cyberbullying.
They have also mapped out a comprehensive evacuation plan.
"We have teamed up with members of our faith-based partners, our clergy so that we will have the ability to have a safe hub in the event that we have to evacuate," Knight added.
The superintendent said they would lean on their relationships with law enforcement.
"Just being there for parents and being there for the staff of each school, we're only a phone call away," said Sgt. Shawn McGuire over the tactical operations unit with the St. Louis County Police Department.
McGuire said the department has put an emphasis on much-needed active shooter training among themselves and other municipalities and first responders.
“The better we prepare our officers and prepare our employees and other municipalities and the school districts the more positive of a return that's going to be," he added.
"Rather than waiting for the what if, we always want to make sure that we are prepared,” Knight said.
The police department does budget active shooter training every year and takes the lead to invite other municipalities to practice with them free of charge.
Currently, security training for Jennings schools has strictly been coming from the district's operating budget.
The superintendent further stated they will pursue security grant dollars in the fall and work alongside St. Louis County and Jennings police departments on tactical training at that time.