Wake school board discusses security proposal

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2013 

— The days when Wake County parents could just walk into their child’s elementary school could become another casualty of the Connecticut school shootings.

Wake County school administrators briefed school board members Wednesday on an $18.1 million security proposal that includes locking elementary school doors and spending $665,215 to provide a buzzer system at their main entrances. Visitors would ring a buzzer to get the attention of a person in the school’s office who would let them in after checking them out on a surveillance camera and talking with them on an intercom.

“We want schools to be open and inviting places,” said Russ Smith, the school district’s senior director of security. “But at the same time you’ve got to provide some security measures.”

Although school board members raised concerns about how the buzzer system would work, they also acknowledged that it may be inevitable.

“With this climate, we’ve got to do everything we reasonably can to reassure parents that their children will be safe,” school board member Tom Benton said. “The buzzer system does seem to make more sense than having an armed guard inside the school.”

School security has been on people’s minds since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Smith said his staff had been working since last summer on security measures to include in the next school construction bond issue. He said the buzzer option was added after getting public feedback after the Connecticut school massacre.

Sandy Hook Elementary doors were locked, prompting the gunman to shoot his way in.Benton, a former principal, said locking the doors could deter some people and would provide a hurdle to slow down a gunman until help arrives.

Smith said there are still details that need to be worked out, such as when a school would leave the doors unlocked at the beginning and end of the school day. He said those kinds of decisions would be left to each school.

Staff assured board members Wednesday that there are enough people in the office to promptly answer the buzzers and that they will be trained in whom to let inside.

Other elements of the school security proposal include:

• Up to $11.7 million to install surveillance cameras in schools.

• Up to $3.8 million to install an electronic locking system on the exterior doors at every school.

• $1 million to install in every school a networked visitor registration system.

• $1 million to install a networked public address intercom system at all schools.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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