At this week's board of education meeting, Athens Area School District superintendent Diane Place updated board members on the district's continuing efforts to improve safety in its buildings.

District officials have worked for the past month to review and enhance school safety and emergency procedures. "At the Athens Area School District, we have been assessing all aspects of operation to ascertain if we need to make any modifications to make our buildings safer," Place said in a letter written to district families and distributed Tuesday. "This should be a continual process."

District leaders have received assistance in achieving that goal from police agencies serving the district's four schools, including Athens Borough and Athens Township police departments and state police. The departments "have been fabulous," Place said at Tuesday's meeting.

Officers have conducted a joint safety audit at each building and will submit written recommendations to the district, Place said. Some of the recommendations will involve changes in district operations, while others will have costs attached, she said.

"Police officers are trained to be very observant, and they notice things that we may not see," Place said in her letter to parents.

In addition to the audit, the Athens Borough Police Department has provided coverage from an officer at Athens Area High School for part of every school day so far this month, Place said. The department may be able to extend police presence at the school until March, she added.

While no state or federal grant opportunities have been offered relative to school safety, Place said she anticipates that funding for educational programs, resource officers at schools and other initiatives may be available in the future.

Place also said district officials are looking into conducting a simulation exercise or drill with staff on an in-service day, similar to an active shooter drill the Sayre Area School District held prior to the start of the current school year, in cooperation with local law enforcement officials and first responders.

Place said the measures will help students, staff and community members be "a little more alert" when it comes to potential safety threats.

Subsequent updates on the district's safety efforts will be posted to the district's website,, Place said.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: