Lessons Learned From Wolf Hill's Lock Down
Oceanport school officials, parents and the police discussed what could have been handled better during Wednesday's incident.
Oceanport Police Capt. Daniel Barcus was on hand at Thursday's board of education meeting to discuss what went wrong -- and what went right -- when Wolf Hill was in lock down this week.
"When these things happen, not everything happens perfectly," Barcus said at the Jan. 10 meeting. "Unfortunately, you can't prepare for everything."
Barcus said one of the biggest challenges on Wednesday, when the elementary school was locked down for about an hour, was the proximity to dismissal. Because of that timing, many parents received the emergency notification from the district as they were en route to pick their children up or expecting their child to walk home.
One parent at the meeting complained that there were no officials on hand to address parents waiting outside the school on Wednesday. Principal Melanie Lipinski said that because of the layers involved in dismissal, she was speaking to parents at another exit of the school before moving to the next dismissal area. All exits were manned by police officers from Oceanport and surrounding towns, Lipinski added.
Betsy Schuff was waiting for her son to walk home from Wolf Hill when she received the emergency notification and was "frantic." She said at the meeting that she was concerned about her child's safety because no suspect had been found but Barcus assured her that police were satisfied the children were not in danger.
Another parent asked that more information get added to emergency alerts so there's no need for parents to fumble and try to get online to find out what's happening on the district's Web site.
Andrew Orefice, superintendent of Oceanport schools, told parents that there are many safety measures in place and under consideration following the Newtown shootings:
- Doors are to remain locked at all times.
- Students and staff hold monthly safety drills and Orefice said they would be "upping the intensity" of those exercises in the future.
- Interior and exterior cameras have been installed at Maple Place.
- Exterior cameras at Wolf Hill monitor the main entrance.
- Among the items under consideration:
- Fencing the Wolf Hill playground
- Installing a double set of doors at the schools' entrances
The district is also speaking with neighboring towns and the Oceanport Police about installing officers inside the schools full time, said Orefice.
The superintendent said he plans to organize a summit on school safety, featuring state law enforcement officers, and hopes to host that by April 1.
Many at the meeting agreed that because no one was injured, the incident helped the district see areas that needed improvement.
Teacher and OEA President Annamarie Ippolito said, "Should nothing be found, yesterday was an excellent drill."