Aaron Barto: Director of physical plant and school safety and security coordinator
When Aaron Barto started at Bellefonte Area School District in 2000, he was the only administrator with a cell phone. Fast-forward more than 20 years and the longtime director of physical plant said technology is one of the biggest things that have changed during the course of time on the job.
“Everyone has phones now and everything is online,” he said. “Even the HVAC systems are all online, so if you lose a link or something, then you’re stuck without the ability to do anything. It seemed like a simpler time back then, but one thing I’ve always been able to say is you never have a routine day. There’s always something that throws a wrinkle in your day that you’re not expecting, so you learn to expect the unexpected and make it work.”
As the director of physical plant, Barto oversees 38 employees on the custodial and maintenance team, and works with custodial supervisor Jason Berni, who is tasked with supervision, while Barto can also put focus on his other district job. In 2018, Barto was named the district’s school safety and security coordinator – a position all public schools are required to have under state law and who must be an administrator.
That requires him to oversee all school safety and security efforts throughout the district from building and grounds maintenance that follows certain protocol, to making sure the about 450-person staff is up to date on trainings such as ALICE, suicide awareness, mandated reporter and more. ALICE – alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate – is a districtwide active shooter training that promotes being proactive in the event of a threat. He also works closely with Safe Schools and Safe2Say Something helplines, which allow those in need to utilize an application to anonymously make reports.
As for facilities, those responsibilities encompass everything from in- and outside of buildings and grounds, to overseeing construction and renovation, and all other building maintenance and updates. He also purchases furniture for the district, while keeping up with various other changes. More recently, Barto has been instrumental in working with the district’s pandemic coordinator to purchase personal protective equipment for employees, and other disinfectant products to help keep schools sanitized.
Needless to say, it’s a lot, and includes being the one at work when everyone else may be at home, such as during the state-mandated school closure due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. His job, along with those in his department, is considered “essential.”
To de-stress, Barto said he enjoys fishing, hunting, spending time on the boat at Raystown Lake with his wife, and visiting his two adult sons who live in Pittsburgh and San Antonio.
“In a few years we hope to retire and move down south,” Barto said with a smile.
Until then, Barto said he’s working to the best of his ability to make sure the district is reaching its goals, with a team who are also part of the process.
Barto, a native of State College, graduated from Penn State in 1989 with a degree in agricultural business management. Upon graduation, he took a job as a farm manager for the United States Department of Agriculture and later became the facilities coordinator. As he got more interested in the facilities aspect of the job, he worked as the building engineer for AccuWeather and was then hired by BASD in 2000.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD