Classes for the 2018-19 Hannibal school year began Thursday following a summer of security upgrades throughout the Hannibal public school district.
Possibly the biggest change that has taken place since classes dismissed last spring has been the addition of a third school resource officer (SRO).
"Having the third SRO is huge," said Rich Stilley, business manager for the Hannibal School District. "We will be able to always have an SRO at HMS (Hannibal Middle School) and HHS (Hannibal High School). The third officer will be visible throughout the district on a daily basis.
"We cannot thank Chief (Lyndell) Davis, Mayor (James) Hark and City Manager Jeff LaGarce enough for their continued support of our safety programs."
While the addition of another SRO was only announced a few weeks ago, the position was filled from the beginning of the semester. "It is very important that we will be able to develop a routine and schedule that allows us to have flexibility from the beginning of the school year," Stilley said.
Stilley said the district will also utilize hand-held metal detector wands, beginning the first day of the semester.
A number of additional security upgrades at various facilities throughout the district were either completed this summer or near completion.
"We are finalizing having additional cameras installed in all of our buildings as well as additional doors and buzzer systems at HHS, HMS and HCTC (Hannibal Career and Technical Center)," said Stilley. "Finally, we are going to be installing some new classroom doors at HHS. Additional fencing has been added to the playground at Stowell (Elementary School)and I expect we will complete a new fence at Veterans (Elementary School) in the next week or so."
Last spring, it was reported that Pirate Pride Drive, a major access point to the HHS/HMS campus, could still be closed when the school year started because of the McMaster's Avenue/U.S. 61 project. Earlier in the month, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announced the intersection work was complete.
"Pirate Pride Drive is open, and it was open ahead of schedule," Stilley said. "I spent some time developing contingency plans, and I am so glad that they will not have to be used."
Within the last week, the center turn lane on McMaster's Avenue also reopened. "Having all five lanes open will allow for normal traffic flow," Stilley said.
At least one more phase of the McMaster's Avenue project remains that could impact the school district. "The final phase of resurfacing will began in September," said Stilley. "I will be talking with MoDOT to develop any additional plans if necessary to assure that students, staff and patrons can enter and exit our main campus safely."
One of the annual challenges the Hannibal School District faces is filling staff openings, and the school year started with that goal nearly accomplished.
"I am short one food service position as a result of a late resignation,” Stilley said. “Filling that position created a domino effect as we promoted from within.”
Stilley said filling support staff positions can be a challenge, because it can be difficult to find candidates that meets the district’s needs while offering jobs with limited hours and no benefits.
There is one common qualification that tops the list. "I will say that we hire staff that love kids," he said.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org