The Howell Public Schools will hold its annual reorganization meeting tonight and as part of the night there will be a discussion looking at the safety practices in the district.
Superintendent Enid Golden said the discussion will focus on what the district's current security measures are and what options they have to improve them. She said since the shooting in Newtown, CT the administration has been looking at improved steps including ID scanners that could be used in the schools. "We'll talk about what's out there and some of the suggestions that we have heard from the community such as metal detectors and security guards.
Golden said Capt. Jeff Mayfield of the Howell Police Department is expected to attend the meeting as well as other officers to discuss what the department can do to help the local schools.
Board President Tim O'Brien said he expects a "vigorous discussion," about what can be done to help keep the students and staff of the district safe. "The Newtown shooting was so horrific that it changed the way that many people think in terms of how safe our schools are," he said. "It absolutely demands that we look at that very carefully to see whether or not we can make our schools safer while still maintaining an educational environment that benefits our children."
Since the shootings in Connecticut the Howell schools have been put at a higher state of alert, including a recent incident when shots fired by nearby hunters could be heard at the Griebling School. An investigation by the local police department determined the hunters were within their legal areas for hunting.
O'Brien said he believed the members of the board will work to make sure everyone is safe. "I think we're looking at all options to see what can be done because each one of us was so impacted by what happened that all of us share one common overriding concert that we have to do whatever we must to ensure the safety of our students and staff."
Mayor Bill Gotto said any decisions by the township will wait for a formal request from the board once they have decided what needs to be done to keep the schools safe. "There needs to be a process that needs to be followed," he said.
Gotto said there have been some discussions about whether to put police officers in every school and the pro's and con's of that decision. "Part of me understands that," he said. "But there needs to be studies and evaluations. Some people think it's a good thing to do. Others think it might not make a difference."
Beginning on Wednesday Marlboro schools started placing officers in every school. It was reported that for 90 days of having the officers in school it will .
Mayor Gotto said if the local board decides that is what is needed in the township schools, there will "have to be serious conversations about how we're going to pay for it."
The mayor also said he was gathering more information about the Griebling incident and seeing what changes could be made to ensure the safety of people in town while also respecting the rights of residents to hunt in the township. "I don't know that I'm all that comfortable with it when a kid gets dropped off at school and a parent starts to hear shots behind the school," he said of the current buffer ordinances. "I'm willing to listen to the conversation."
The next council meeting is set for Jan. 22 and Gotto said as more information is collected it could be an item up for discussion at that time.
Thursday's meeting starts at 8 p.m. at Middle School North.