PREBLE COUNTY — Preble Shawnee Local School District has recently made additional investments in the health and safety of its students in the form of new security doors at local elementary schools, as well as food pantries for underprivileged students.
The security doors were installed at the main entrances of elementary schools in Camden and West Elkton, plugging a vital hole in the previous security measures at those facilities.
“Before, once they were buzzed in, nothing stopped someone from walking into the hallway and having access to the whole building,” Bishop said. “Now it channels visitors into the main office and forces them to interact with an adult to determine who they are and what their business is.”
The security upgrades were made possible by a $15,000 grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, according to Bishop, along with additional funds from the State of Ohio. Their primary purpose is to take some of the responsibility for security off the shoulders of office personnel.
“We’ve always been concerned about having visitors be able to walk past the office,” Bishop said. “The office is very busy, and it can be challenging to make sure that visitors are coming in there while you’re trying to do two or three other things. There’s a lot of traffic coming through there, including a lot of little kids with needs.”
The new system will also have Student Resource Officers (SROs) on hand to interact with visitors, if needed.
“The attendance office and the SRO office are right there,” Bishop said. “So every visitor who comes in will be going somewhere with a police officer stationed nearby.”
“They’re great, and we’re very happy to have them,” Bishop said of the new security doors. “Anything that improves the security of the facility is always a positive.”
School District Success Liaison Christine Wilson, meanwhile, works with local nonprofits to make sure Preble Shawnee middle and high school students get enough to eat.
“We work with families to connect them with resources in the community, in order to fulfill any need they might have,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to help families become self-sufficient, so that they don’t have to rely on community resources.”
In cooperation with local nonprofit The Common Good of Preble County, those resources include food pantries in local schools, including Preble Shawnee, to help students who may not get enough to eat throughout the day meet their needs without having to suffer embarrassment or social stigma.
“They can get in and out without much hassle, so they don’t have to make a big scene out of the fact that they need food,” Common Good Executive Director Jenny McCarty said. “Unfortunately there can be a stigma around that, the idea that it’s ‘not cool’ to need food.”
The food pantry is a fairly new initiative, as elementary and younger middle school students have been receiving backpacks filled with food to tide them over during the weekend for some time. That program still left some students’ needs unfulfilled, however, according to McCary.
“We were stopping at sixth grade, and that’s when kids are really growing, and they really need and crave more food,” McCarty said.
“I like to say that we take care of everything that happens before they get to school, that might affect their ability to learn once they get here,” McCarty continued. “If they’re worried about being able to get something to eat, they’re not going to be able to focus on their schoolwork.”
It will take a while to gauge the program’s success, according to McCarty, but regardless of the numbers the food pantries are guaranteed to do at least some good.
“If we have one kid come in and get food, that’s a success, because we fed a kid,” McCarty said. “The first part is going to be identifying how big the need is. Are we talking about three kids or 33?”
During Jan. 2019, food pantries run by The Common Good served 78 students at Preble Shawnee, 102 students at Twin Valley South, 12 students at Tri-County North and 11 at National Trail, according to McCarty. That’s a total of 203 students served throughout the county during the programs’ first month of operation, according to information supplied by McCarty.
“Because the program is so new, the first few months will be a lot of trial and error in areas such as what types of food are available, the location of each pantry in order to promote accessibility and anonymity for the students, and informing the students of how the pantry works,” McCarty said. “We’re confident that with each month we will make the necessary changes to meet the needs of the students.”