School security: JPS officials to present plan to boost it in schoolsChanges in school safety could be on the horizon for Jamestown Public Schools and it could mean increased difficulty in access for parents. Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults last December in Newtown, Conn., Jamestown Public School officials are preparing a plan to increase safety to present to the School Board at its two March meetings.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Changes in school safety could be on the horizon for Jamestown Public Schools and it could mean increased difficulty in access for parents.
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults last December in Newtown, Conn., Jamestown Public School officials are preparing a plan to increase safety to present to the School Board at its two March meetings.
“It’s a huge change in parent and community access to the building where their kids are,” said JPS Superintendent Bob Toso. “It’s a big change. We’re used to just being able to walk into our schools and if this change goes into effect we can’t do that anymore.”
Toso and other JPS staff members are proposing locked doors at the five elementary schools and the middle schools, with cameras and a buzzer system for secretaries to let visitors in. There would also be a panic button for office personnel to use in case of an emergency.
There are still ongoing discussions on possible security measures for Jamestown High School.
“This country has to realize that there is no place that is safe,” Toso said, giving a reason to increase security. “There isn’t and that’s very sad.”
Toso will use the March 4 School Board meeting to educate the board. He hopes board members will approve proceeding with the proposed safety measures at the March 18 meeting.
He estimated the cost would be close to $100,000 and, if approved, anticipates the work will be done this summer.
Toso and Nick Hardy, school resource officer, said the goal of the changes is to slow down any attacker. Both said 30 to 45 additional seconds could result in more saved lives.
“If someone is bent on getting into the school and creating mayhem I’m not sure we could do anything to stop that,” Toso said. “The idea as Nick and I talked about it is to slow them down and that is a very different way of thinking about security.
“But using Sandy Hook as an example, because that school had the locks on the door, the first people killed there at the school were the principal and the school psychologist going to stop the invader,” he said. “Because they were able to see someone was trying to break in, that allowed the school to warn classrooms.”
Many people may view Jamestown as a quiet community, but that has also been the view of communities where recent shootings have happened, Toso said.
“The first things that (Sandy Hook) parents were saying is ‘We thought this was a safe community.’ Who thought someone was going to break into a theater in Denver and shoot it up when ‘Batman’ is playing? Who thought a congresswoman couldn’t go to a mall in Arizona?” Toso said, referring to a movie theater shooting on July 20, 2012 and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in January 2011 in an attempted assassination.
The recent shootings in the past few years have raised concerns for JPS officials. Hardy had proposed changes in mind since August 2011.
“At that time I wasn’t thinking about locking schools down, but after Sandy Hook I figured it wouldn’t be excessive,” Hardy said. “It could be something we could look at doing.”
Hardy said there are additional safety measures that could be taken over the course of three to five years to increase school safety.
“If you look at the last 10 years of school shootings, it’s gotten more prevalent,” he said. “This is kind of setting a new precedent at elementary schools — it’s never really happened before.”
If the board approves the changes, Toso said parents would be expected to call ahead if they had to go to a school and let the secretary know they were on their way. They would then be buzzed in.
“It (Sandy Hook) raised our level of concern,” Toso said. “We want to make sure people feel safe, so we felt we needed to take another step.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com