In what would be one of the biggest moves yet to improve school security in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Public Schools is considering buying 4,400 locks to shut classrooms from the inside in the event of a crisis like the massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“All the school districts in the country assessed what they could do to enhance safety and security within buildings,” said Peter Camarda, the district's chief financial and operations officer. The administration settled on asking the school board to buy the locks from Stanley Security Systems Inc. in Indianapolis for all 59 schools and early learning centers.
“They're termed intruder locks because if there's an intruder in the building, you can lock them out of your rooms,” Camarda said. “I'm confident that the students are safe already, but this is an enhancement.”
The board will discuss buying the locks at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The cost: nearly $783,000. If approved, the district would bid the installation cost separately. The board is scheduled to vote on the locks April 24.
The district began re-examining security after the shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 20 children and six adults. Vidya Patil, the district's director of facilities, said teachers would have a key to lock their classroom upon a directive over the public address system.
He said the district had to balance the need to keep intruders out of classrooms with allowing children out of classrooms in the event of a fire. The goal is to install the locks by the end of the year.
The purchase of intruder locks would be the latest action area schools have taken to improve security since the shooting:
• Butler Area and South Butler school officials put armed officers in their schools after getting emergency permission from a county judge.
• Officials in the Canon-McMillan School District asked officers from North Strabane, Cecil and Canonsburg police departments to double their presence at schools.
• The Mars Area School District added an officer from the Adams Police Department.
• The Peters Township School District added a resource officer, a sworn law enforcement agent, from the local police department.
“After Sandy Hook, we've seen a number of schools, ironically many of those that didn't have any money for security, suddenly find hundreds of thousands and, in some cases, millions of dollars to beef up security,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm.
He recommended districts balance their investment in security hardware with money spent training their staff, doing drills, practicing lockdowns and evacuations, and working with police.
This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.