Safety First: Getting into schools will be a little tougher

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Immediately following the school shooting in Connecticut, local officials began looking at the situation in Bullitt County.

Superintendent Keith Davis said many of the schools had very good security safeguards, although he admitted nothing was 100 percent foolproof.

The Bullitt County Public School Board went a step further on Tuesday by approving nearly $140,000 in structural improvements. And, at a later time, another $50,000 in improvements could be requested.

At the same time, Davis said there would be procedural changes which might place a little inconvenience on visitors but should standardize safety measures.

“We can’t cover everything,” admitted board member Roger Hayes, who made the motion to approve the spending.

Davis said the first level of improvements would be to provide standard procedures to be used by every school and to install safety measures to get into the front entrances.

For example, Davis wants to have a set of exterior doors with a buzzer system. Once entrance is granted, he wants another set of locked doors with a way for office staff to see a photo ID of the person entering.

As part of the entrance procedure, Davis said the office staff member would look at the ID and then ask the reason for the visit and the person to be visited.

“We want to be consistent,” said Davis.

In the past week, many parents who receive e-mails from principals have seen explanations of the new policy.

Getting all schools to meet the Level I standards would cost an estimated $137,850.

The Level II improvements would be to add a buzzer system to the interior locked doors. This would be another $29,250 expense.

The final level would include additional security measures, such as new or additional cameras, emergency buzzers and some entry changes at a couple of older schools.

Davis is hoping to see the first level of changes completed by early April after students return from spring break.

Of the concerns he has heard, Davis said a couple of the older schools —  Maryville and Mount Washington Elementary - would need some type of gates due to the open classroom construction.

“We’re going to make all the schools more secure,” said Davis.

Board chairman Tim Wiseheart said he has noticed all the schools seem to be taking extra steps in making sure security procedures are followed.

“I know they are taking extra steps,” said Wiseheart.

Hayes said he wanted to make sure the message is spread that students should not be opening exterior doors if they hear a knock or see someone wanting in.

Davis said that message would be sent immediately.

The only other hurdle might be a need for state approval. Hayes said the state’s blessing might be needed. He made that part of his motion to allow the district to immediately fill any paperwork with the state Department of Education to get the work started as soon as possible.

“We know that the safety of our students is of greatest priority and these changes will help us to become more consistent in safety and security procedures throughout our district,” said Davis.

To pay for the work, Davis said over $46,000 would be used from the contingency fund. The district also saved $20,000 on bus purchases and another $11,000 on bus cameras. The technology and maintenance budgets were both reduced by $20,000 and vocational teachers budgeted but not yet hired resulted in another savings of $20,000.