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Schools beef up security over summer

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Plan to visit a local school this year? Don’t expect to breeze right through the doors.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. spent more than $20,000 this summer adding a buzzer system to all school doors, and several Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. buildings have newly secured entrances.

“You can never be too careful in this day or age, unfortunately,” said Jim Tedder, director of transportation and facilities for Hope schools.

When visiting most BCSC schools, visitors can only get as far as a small, enclosed front foyer. The doors leading directly into the school’s hallways are locked, and visitors must go through the main office to check in.

Superintendent John Quick said many of the BCSC schools were built in the 1970s and ’80s, when architects did not consider security when designing the buildings.

“It just wasn’t really something they had to think of,” he said.

But that changed after the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School — and even before that here in Columbus.

Schools were being outfitted with new safety features during renovations and additions well before the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, but Quick said that incident spurred more projects.

In the most recent round of $23.8 million in school renovations, the following schools received secure entrance improvements: Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus, W.D. Richards Elementary School, Northside Middle School, Taylorsville Elementary School and L. Frances Smith Elementary School.

The total cost to increase security at all six entryways was $625,000.

Parkside is the only elementary without the secure entrance, but Quick said work on the entryway is on the schedule.

When Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. designed its new building, architects incorporated a secure entry like the ones being installed in BCSC.

So when the Department of Homeland Security awarded Hope schools an $11,475 matching grant last year, the district used the money for an additional level of security — a buzzer system protecting nearly every entrance to the school.

Visitors will be required to identify themselves — through a voice intercom and a camera — to school personnel before the doors are unlocked at the three front doors.

They will then be asked to sign into the main office and be granted a badge for access.

Most of the building’s 48 doors have been equipped with devices that alert staff if side or back doors are not closed properly.

Through the same grant, districts also could apply for funds for a school resource officer — BCSC took advantage of this money to help fund two officers at Columbus North and East high schools — but Tedder said he does not think hiring one is necessary for Flat Rock-Hawcreek schools.

The Hope Police Department is only a quarter of a mile away, meaning officers could potentially respond to an incident quicker than other officers can make it from one end of a school to another, Tedder said.

“We’re always looking for improvement and always looking to make the school more secure,” he added.

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