Wantagh, Levittown mull school safety

School safety discussed in Wantagh, Levittown


The Wantagh School District is awaiting a $1.5 million grant from the State Education Department that would fund new safety measures such as additional security cameras, access-control points and other infrastructure technology, according to School Superintendent John McNamara.

In a Feb. 28 letter to parents, McNamara wrote that the district was halfway through a five-stage review to approve funds for its Smart Schools Investment Plan. The details of these and other safety and security improvements came in response to concerns raised by parents after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting on Feb. 14.

In the nearby Levittown School District, Superintendent Dr. Tonie McDonald spoke about its safety plans to a packed room of concerned parents, teachers and administrators at a Feb. 28 school board meeting. Reading aloud a letter she posted on the district website earlier that day, McDonald said that the board was voting that evening on whether to hire three new security guards, and that the district would adhere “ballistic film” to the glass in the vestibules of each school building.

Levittown is the only district in the county to have had a threat assessment of its transportation department conducted by the Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, the letter stated, and McDonald is one of 15 superintendents serving on the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents’ Safety Committee.

After McDonald spoke, several Levittown parents voiced their concerns about safety. One was George Gadd, the father of a high school junior, who urged the board to continue pressing initiatives that protect students.

Another parent, Mark Kerchman, echoed Gadd, saying that he was in education for 15 years, his wife was in special education for 20 years, and he never imagined getting up in front of the board to appeal for more school security for his daughters. “I ask that this remain the number one priority for us every single day,” Kerchman said. Other parents applauded his comments.

“Please know that we truly think your child is the most important thing when they walk through that door,” board Trustee Peggy Marenghi said. “Not math. Not reading. Not science. But the safety of your child.”

According to McDonald, additional money has been allocated in Levittown’s proposed 2018-19 proposed budget for upgrades, including newer, more efficient cameras inside and outside its buildings. And the district plans to have 3D images available of all classrooms.

In closing, McDonald read the end of the letter: “I am very proud to be the Superintendent of the Levittown School District, where I make my home and where my family attends school. I have always felt that our schools are safe, but recent events have caused us to take a hard look at what we do and discuss how we can do better.”

In Wantagh, Superintendent McNamara detailed safety initiatives in his district in a Feb. 28 letter to parents. He said that security personnel, many of whom have law enforcement experience and training, are in place at all the schools. Lockdown drills are conducted regularly, and safety plans are reviewed and updated periodically. All front and perimeter doors remain locked throughout the school day.

“We will do everything we can to make sure that our students experience a sense of normalcy to their day,” McNamara wrote, “and have a productive and supportive experience in our schools.”

Wantagh parents were likely to comment on these and other safety features at Thursday’s school board meeting.