February 3, 2013

SAD 54 ready to enact widespread changes in security

The new safety plan is one of many in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut.

By DOUG HARLOW Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN - School Administrative District 54 is set to enact widespread changes in safety measures at the district's eight schools, including locked doors and a buzzer system with cameras at main entrances.

Photographs of staff members in each school were completed last week for picture identity badges, Superintendent Brent Colbry said. Each staff member will be required to wear an identification badge. Visitors and parents will have to sign in at the office and obtain a visitor's pass, he said.

"You can no longer just walk in with your child and walk down to the classroom and drop the kid off," Colbry said. "You've got to stop first and then go from there."

Colbry said he and district administrators created a 12-point plan for safety and security procedures to be taken up for final approval soon by the school board. The district has six schools in Skowhegan and one each in Norridgewock and Canaan.

"We said, 'Let's talk about school safety. What are we doing, what are we not doing in relation to recommendations from the state and from the feds?'" he said.

The panel recommends that all exterior doors be locked at all times, with a buzzer and camera system at each main entrance, once the school board approves the funding, Colbry said. Custodians and teachers would check doors in the morning and throughout the day.

Classroom doors in every building would be in the locked position, so that if someone shuts the door, it locks. Doors could be opened only from the inside, and only staff members would have keys.

Colbry said the schools all would have lockdown procedures in place, but those plans would not be announced to the public. There would be a minimum of three lockdown drills a year, and each school principal would have to complete a drill report to the superintendent.

Colbry said a buzzer-and-camera system for each school entrance would cost about $4,000 per school. The systems would be ordered as early as this week, with board approval.

Other school districts are implementing changes in security in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.

In Fairfield-based SAD 49, with schools also in Albion, Benton and Clinton, school officials in January said the district is considering additional security measures, including more security cameras and panic buttons.

In Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, which also has schools in Belgrade, China, Rome and Sidney, Superintendent Gary Smith recently said the district is considering tighter security controls, including security cameras, student IDs and buzzer-access entrances.

In Waterville schools, visitors must check in and out and wear name tags, according to administrators.

Waterville schools also conduct lockdown and evacuation drills, as was done in January at Forest Hills Consolidated School with agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, the Maine Warden Service and Maine State Police.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:



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