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Mars Area reflects on safety, security

ADAMS TWP — In the wake of two threatening incidents at Mars Area High School, the board reflected on its security and safety Tuesday.

“Just so everyone knows, we continue to look at our protocols,” superintendent Mark Gross said. “We’re going to continue to do that, meet with our local police department, state police, internal stake holders — try to maximize our safety efforts.”

A gun scare at Friday’s basketball game and charges against a student for carrying a 5-inch knife into the school on Feb. 1 have lead to a review of school security practices.

“I can’t say enough about the response on Friday night,” Gross said. “It was not a Mars student and nothing happened in the building, but it was still on our property — and those that responded ... did a stellar job, a textbook job.”

Gross praised school security and the Adams Township Police Department for their quick response.

“You read the news and you see how every day those individuals put themselves in harm’s way, and we sometimes forget about that,” he said. “We take for granted that we all have positions that sort of keep us a step away from some of those things.”

Mathematics teacher Joe Graff thanked the administration for its handling of the incidents.

“I want to give a shout-out to our principals — it must be that time of year,” Graff said, “Very appreciative of the communication that came from the principals to the staff as those incidents were unfolding.”

Board member Nicole Thurner also thanked security for effectively deescalating the situations, and she acknowledged the district’s need for review.

“It’s not gone unnoticed, and the issues that have been brought up are taken seriously as the board and as the administration,” Thurner said. “We will continue to explore what we need to do to make sure that things are addressed.”

While praise went out to all of those involved in handling the situations, Gross emphasized the importance of taking action.

”We’re doing pretty good as a district, but we want to make sure that we can learn from some of these things that unfortunately have occurred,“ Gross said. ”Rest assured, we’ll be continuing to work to minimize any type of situations like that in the future.“

Support staff needed

The board also approved an increase to starting hourly wages for the school’s support staff.

“The purpose behind this is that we have several openings in all of these positions,” board member Kevin Hagen said. “So we’re trying to see if we can attract some more people with some higher wages — a little more competitive than some neighboring districts.”

The changes raise secretarial wages to $15 per hour, paraprofessionals to $14 per hour, custodians to $13.50 per hour, level one maintenance to $14 per hour and level two maintenance to $18 per hour.

Graff spoke to the importance of these positions to the administration and staff and applauded its approval.

“Any effort we can make can make in getting those positions fully staffed is great,” Graff said. “It’s good to see.”

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