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SPECIAL REPORT: Safe At School, Part I
The recent spate of deadly violence in schools across the country has local school officials re-examining how to keep your kids safe in the classroom. But the challenges are very different depending on the size of the school system and the resources available.
In a smaller district, options are limited.
At the center of roughly 98 square miles of countryside and just a few thousand people is the Tri-City School District.
“We have about 650 kids here in the district from pre-K through 12th," Tri-City School District Superintendent H.
David Bruno said. "Everyone is in one building."
A building you can't get into unless you have a key or you ring the buzzer.
"In the past we've used a lot more interpersonal
relationships in and out,” Bruno said.
But now, the newly-installed buzzer is the first step. When someone shows up at the door, they push it and are checked out on camera by staff.
The school’s exterior doors are the next problem. In the coming months they will be replaced, and the locks will be updated.
“It’ll be thousands of dollars," Bruno said. "The cost of these [doors] aren't a factor. We have to take care of the students here and that was our first priority."
Bruno said the security changes were approved December 13. Little did anyone know what horror would erupt the very next day in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Of course it hit home because I'm in charge of 19 students,” Tri-City
Schools teacher Nicole Schleicher said.
Nineteen first grade students were no different than the victims in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
“Well I was thinking about my room in particular," Schleicher said. "How I would keep my
Schleicher runs through lockdown drills with her kids at least twice a year. So does the rest of the school.
“We can't be prepared for every situation but I think that we're
doing the best that we can," Schleicher said.
Especially when your police force has only two officers, one of them Chief Bryon Honea.
“I can access all the school cameras inside the school," Honea said.
Even if he is not walking the halls, one man can only cover so much ground.
“We're by ourselves," Honea said. "And we could be anywhere from a few minutes,
depending upon our backup car or if a county car happens to be close, all the
way to 15 minutes."
That's why neighboring law enforcement is essential.
“As us having one officer on duty at a time and every once in a while we'd overlap a shift we would depend on them if something did happen," Honea said.
If something did happen, the word would be spread fast, and the message would be clear.
"We use plain and simple language," Bruno said. "We don't use a lot of
codes. We'll tell you what's going on."
And in a community this connected, safety is not only measured by numbers.
“So I feel that though our police force numbers are lower, our
access, our time, our chance to get them here and what they can do for us I
would say exceeds most big towns because we have that relationship with them,"
The district said there is still more to do, including adding an intercom outside so they can hear the person who comes to the door.
As far as the safety measures that have already been approved, the district is hoping to have all of that in place by the beginning of the next school year.