Twenty-two thousand ― that’s how many steps East Hill Elementary School monitor Melissa Stevens says she takes in any given day at the school. She escorts the district’s youngest learners anytime they need to leave their classrooms, such as when they have to go to the school nurse, to get something from their lockers or to go to academic services.
Stevens is one of two new school monitors at East Hill. Stevens and Dontay Fowler’s positions began on Feb. 12 with the ultimate goal of increasing school safety.
Of the pair, Stevens is the student escort, while Fowler manages visitors who enter the building — he welcomes people, makes sure students are picked up by people on the approved pickup list, reviews security cameras and keeps an eye on the school hallways.
“It’s going very well,” elementary school Principal Stacy Ward says. “We have the people we need to welcome our parents and visitors while keeping the building safe.”
The positions were implemented after school leaders, staff members and parents had a community meeting on Jan. 22 to discuss the safety and security of the school. In addition to the school monitors, Ward says more security cameras have been ordered, support staff members have new walkie talkies to communicate, and a new scanning system will be implemented at the entrance, thanks to funding secured by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. The district will also construct secure entryways at each school building through the ongoing capital project that was approved by voters in December.
Ward says in implementing the new school monitor positions, it was important to school leaders that they find a balance between safety and fostering student independence. That’s why they decided that students in grades K-2 will be escorted by Stevens in the hallways at all times. All third graders and some second graders who earn special privileges can walk the halls by themselves, but will be watched by the school monitors. And fourth graders can walk the halls by themselves, but staff members use phones and walkie talkies to let each other know where the students are going.
“With this system, we are accountable for all children at all times,” Ward said. “Everything we are doing allows us to focus on safety and maximize learning time.”