By Rich Place

A brief overview on school security — and how Superintendent Bob Miller has been responding to questions from concerned parents — was presented Tuesday to the Ellicottville School Board of Education.

Miller explained to the board that following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., school safety is a topic that has been on parents’ minds.

“I have taken some calls and some emails from concerned parents and I’m trying to return them as quickly as I can to let them know we are doing everything we can to protect their child,” Miller said. “The parents have been appreciative of that and I have shared a number of things we are doing.”

Among them, Miller said the school is continuing their lockdown drills with two more to be performed. He said school staff have already made recommendations based on previous drills and have improved their effectiveness.

“We really take the time; we scour the building,” Miller said. “We look for the doors that might be unlocked, we kind of peek in windows and see if we can see signs of life. … And we debrief after that — the team that sweeps the building — and make recommendations.”

Examples have included rearranging how children hide in a room during a lockdown to better hide all students, to ensuring the public address system in the school is functioning in every room.

Miller said safety training will be among the topics at an upcoming staff development day in mid-March, and middle and high school principal Erich Ploetz is expected to attend a training in Utica on understanding mental health. Miller also plans to meet with other superintendents soon at Randolph for a gathering that will also focus on school safety.

Miller also mentioned the school’s improved camera system, which was demonstrated to the school board earlier this year, and said his upcoming newsletter article will focus on school safety.

“We’ve done a lot to try and keep kids safe,” he said.

The school board on Tuesday also held a discussion about its current sports merger agreement with the West Valley Central School District, which enters its fourth and final year next year. Miller explained to the board that keeping a merger with West Valley will likely push Ellicottville up to Class C in most sports based on BEDS numbers, which are calculated to determine a school’s classification.

After explaining the process of how a BEDS number is determined, Miller said Ellicottville on its own has a BEDS number of 149, which is the highest number for a Class D school.

“So if we continue the merger into next year, then we know we are going up to the Cs,” Miller said. “And when we first brought this all together five years ago when we started talking about this, we knew that could be a possibility back then. But we were also seeing a bigger number of students from West Valley and a number of athletes.”

Some sports this year — like varsity boys soccer and varsity girls basketball, for example — did not have any West Valley students competing on the Ellicottville team. However, those teams next year would still be forced to move up to Class C regardless.

To add to the conundrum, Miller said Section VI is changing the formula for how classifications are determined for the 2019-20 sports seasons, and early signs point toward Ellicottville being a Class C school regardless of its affiliation with West Valley.

“If we broke the agreement and went on our own next year, then we are a D. But the way I am crunching the numbers we would move up to a C the following year,” Miller said. “And that will fluctuate from year to year depending on the class size.”

It was advised Miller speak with West Valley Superintendent Eric Lawton to determine West Valley’s interest in continuing the sports merger and proceed depending on whether West Valley continues to need Ellicottville’s assistance in fielding teams.

“The thing in the back of my mind is kids,” Miller said. “I don’t want to pull the rug out from a kid in any way, shape or form. But we also want to be fair. It’s kind of hard to get your hands around all of this.”

On a related sports note, the school board approved Ellicottville’s spring sports coaches. They are: Chris Mendell, varsity baseball; Jason Marsh, modified baseball; Matt Finn, varsity softball; Tracie Rapaciolli-Myers, junior varsity softball; Leah Klahn, modified softball; Dan LaCroix, golf; Glenn Hall, assistant golf; and Pat Waldron for track team combined with Franklinville.

Miller also informed the board Section VI denied its appeal to stay in Class D for football next year, meaning the team, which is combined with Franklinville, will play in Class C. Football has a different system to determine its classifications, Miller explained.

The Ellicottville School Board of Education will host budget work sessions at 7 p.m. March 6 and March 20 prior to its next regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. March 27.