Edwardsville School District 7 is implementing changes in an effort to improve security at its schools in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month where 20 students and six adults were killed by an armed gunman.
"There's no absolute guarantees, but what we can do is try to reduce the obvious risks that exist as a result of how the country is changing and some of the violence we are seeing," Superintendent Ed Hightower said. "We want our kids not only to be safe, but we want our kids, parents and our employees to feel as though they are safe."
The school board sent a four-page letter to parents of students Tuesday informing them of changes the district already made and a time frame of when other changes will be put in place.
School board President Greg Roosevelt said, "the situation has changed for districts. Not only are we educating kids, but we have a greater responsibility for security of our students and staff. We're taking every reasonable step we can."
According to the letter, the following changes have or will be implemented:
* The school district has already installed new classroom door locks, which will allow teachers to lock doors from the inside of the classroom. Roosevelt said there were some classrooms that could not be locked and that is no longer the case.
* By the end of this month, a panic/duress alarm will be installed at each school. The alarm will be able to be activated at two locations and will contact public safety personnel when activated.
* District officials plan to provide updated school floor plans to local law enforcement agencies by Jan. 31.
* By Feb. 15, the district is expected to implement remote access to school security cameras for law enforcement officials, which will allow police departments to access the interior surveillance cameras to determine security vulnerability and/or possible intruders.
* By March 31, the district plans to have access control in place at all the elementary buildings, which will insure all doors are locked and only those authorized individuals are permitted to enter.
* Also by the end of March, remote door access with surveillance cameras are to be installed at the front entrance of all school buildings. All doors of school buildings will be locked during the school day, and visitors and parents will be required to show identification to be granted access to the building.
* All District 7 employees will be required to wear ID badges by March 31.
* Middle and high school students will be required to wear ID badges starting next school year.
"We are going to do these things, because we think they are necessary," Roosevelt said, noting the district's number one priority is the safety of its students and staff.
These security changes were outlined by the District 7 Safety Committee, which met right after the shooting in Newtown on Dec. 17 and again on Friday. The committee is made up of representatives from the school district, the school board and local police departments as well as other agencies.
The school board will continue to work with the Safety Committee to determine if schools can be better secured for after school activities as well as study the feasibility of armed security personnel at the front entrance of schools, according to the letter.
"We just want to make sure that what we do is thought out and we're not making knee-jerk or ill concerned decisions," Roosevelt said.
District 7's Safety Committee is set to meet again in March to continue discussions on school safety.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.