Forest Lake Area Schools is committed to providing the best education possible to its students, and in that effort the district has taken a series of steps over the past decade in order to make our buildings as safe and secure as possible, given the limitations of our facilities. Among those efforts has been the creation of a comprehensive Crisis Response Plan to address emergencies and situations as they arise.
This plan was developed several years ago, and over the past eight years it has been expanded and modified to reflect current standards and best practices. Secondly, this plan is updated by district staff every year in collaboration with officials from local law-enforcement, fire departments and first-responders.
Finally, the district has, on several occasions, brought in internationally-renown safety and security expert Michael Dorn, from the non-profit organization Safe Havens International, to evaluate district buildings in order to determine what efforts can be made to not only put effective procedures in place to address emergencies when they happen but to take preventative measures in order to minimize or even eliminate the risk of many adverse situations from arising in the first place.
Current Safety & Security Issues
Forest Lake Police Captain Greg Weiss, a graduate of Forest Lake Area High School, and safety and security expert Michael Dorn of Safe Havens International have been key players in helping develop and improve the district's Crisis Response Plan and in evaluating the district's buildings. Prior to passage of the district's 2015 bond project, both of these experts had stated that while the district has already taken major steps in creating an excellent crisis plan and conducting comprehensive staff training programs, the district faced major challenges that could only be addressed through significant changes to the design of the buildings and improvements through better technology. These efforts were addressed facilities bond, and are included in the Reshaping Opportunities for Success 2015-2020 project.
Those areas that the facilities project will address are:
1) The entrances to all of the schools in the district do not meet current standards for safety and security, and they provide too much potential for an intruder to enter the buildings unnoticed.
2) The interior designs of elementary schools such as Lino Lakes Elementary (built in 1958) and Columbus Elementary (built in 1975) have very few fixed interior walls. Movable walls and temporary partitions create the boundaries for interior classrooms. This was a popular design decades ago because of the ease in which classrooms could be resized and flexibility in which space in the building could be allocated. But unfortunately, this format is no longer used in modern schools - due to both changes in modern-day educational approaches but also because of safety and security concerns. A fire in a single classroom could potentially endanger not only students in that classroom but in an entire section of a building, and there is potential for the fire easily spreading quickly throughout the entire building with no real walls to contain it. Likewise, an intruder to a building would not have solid barrier standing between himself and any classroom he wanted to enter.
3) Lack of security cameras in the buildings, which means that certain sections of our schools to have little or no monitoring. The addition of cameras not only creates a deterrence for unwanted activity but allows areas to be better monitored and video records kept of incidents that do occur.
Upgrades Included in the Facilities Project
The Reshaping Opportunities for Success 2015-2020 project will provide for several important upgrades to our schools in order to create safer learning environments for all district students.
1) The front entrances to every district school will be reconfigured to require either key-card access or require any visitor to go through the building's front office in order to enter the school.
2) Permanent interior walls will be built at Lino Lakes and Columbus Elementary Schools.s to all district buildings would be reconfigured. Visitors to the buildings would be required to either pass through the school office before entering the rest of the building, or a secured monitoring system would be installed.
3) Additional cameras and other security technology will be installed at district schools as needed.
4) New communications technology and improvements made to current school intercom systems would ensure that all students and staff in buildings are able to respond in the event of an emergency.
5) New fire alarms, sprinklers and other systems will be installed as needed, or the current systems would be upgraded.