MARIETTA - A group of more than 50 parents, teachers and school staffers gathered in the gymnasium at Washington Elementary School on Monday night to discuss the issue of school safety at the Marietta City Schools Board of Education meeting.
Before that discussion began, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Conn., on Friday.
The poignant sight and sound of Washington Elementary School students singing Christmas songs reminded those gathered of the importance of what was to be discussed.
The 16-member-strong Trojan Treble Makers performing choir, each outfitted in matching purple T-shirts, sang "Feliz Navidad" and "The Marvelous Toy," before asking those at the meeting to sing along with them to an a capella version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Angie Binegar, whose daughter is in her first year at Phillips Elementary School after previously being home schooled, started off the evening's conversation by announcing that she has started a Facebook page called "Parents for Safer Schools in Marietta" that already has 300 likes, or fans.
"I always kept her out of school under my wings," Binegar said.
In Other Business...
* As part of the Marietta City Schools' "Building Bridges to Careers" program, Tasha Werry, Race to the Top and Teachers Incentive Fund grant coordinator for the district, reported that BBC is looking to pursue funding with a 21st Century grant opportunity.
* In addition, BBC's three sub-groups are working on action steps for the program.
* BBC was established to explore ways to better prepare students for college and careers.
Now, "she loves Phillips," she added.
Based on the tragic events at Sandy Hook School, "I think the community is willing to stand behind what we do (to improve safety)," said Binegar.
Speaking about some of what the board of education and Marietta City Schools have done to beef up school safety and security was Sgt. Rod Hupp of the Marietta Police Department.
The district has implemented the ALICE program - an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate - which encourages individuals to react actively rather than passively in the event of a shooter.
"You don't sit down and be a sitting duck," said Marietta City Schools Superintendent Harry Fleming.
Although the ALICE program is already considered controversial by some school districts, Hupp took the controversy an additional step by asking school board members to think about allowing for the concealed carry of handguns by certain school personnel.
"It can feel like you're sending kids to a penitentiary if there is too much physical security" like doors with metal bars, a glassed-in "holding center" between the outer and inner school entrance and more, he added.
What's more, many schools in the district are older buildings that weren't built with security measures in mind, said board President Greg Gault.
According to Hupp, the Ohio State Code allows no firearms in schools "unless authorized in writing by the board of education."
Other suggestions for tightening up or increasing school safety included tightening up protocols on buzzing visitors into Marietta school buildings and placing steel bars in entry doors or windows.
Board of education member Don Atkins assured those at the meeting that every school in the district has a "five layer chain of command, so that if a principal is not there, others are not asking 'What do we do?'"
Fleming thought the school safety meeting was a success.
"It was a very good conversation that the community needs to have together, so we can learn to do the best possible job of keeping our children safe," Fleming said.