NORTH CANTON: The carnage from the Newtown, Conn., shootings has added a new dimension to school safety and security.
“We have learned from the tragedy. It has been a sobering experience,” schools Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said to about 200 people gathered for a town hall meeting Tuesday evening in the Hoover High School auditorium.
The purpose of the meeting, Hartenstein said, was to gather ideas from the public as well as announce what the school district already has done or plans to do to assure student and staff safety.
For two hours, North Canton police Chief Stephan Wilder and Hartenstein fielded questions. They said there are no plans to arm teachers or position armed police officers in any school.
“There are too many variables in arming teachers,” Wilder said. He feared that an armed teacher could be mistaken for a shooter or vice versa. “The last thing I want is an officer shooting a teacher.”
Two police resource officers have been, and will continue to be, in schools on a regular basis, he said.
Other answers included these key points:
• The district plans to install vestibules with bullet-resistant doors and shatterproof glass in its elementary schools soon. Visitors would be screened before being admitted through a locked door. Existing vestibules at Hoover High School and North Canton Middle School would get locked doors, buzzer systems, card-swipe systems, security cameras and shatterproof glass.
• The district plans to purchase digital radios for every school employee. The radio would have a dedicated channel that police and the school district’s main office would monitor. Staffers would be able to alert everyone in a building as well as the police of an intruder. Police would know the location of a possible shooter and which areas to evacuate quickly.
Cost was estimated at $100,000. Hartenstein indicated that the district’s 2013 budget does not include this expenditure.
• Every teacher will be trained in the ALICE protocol of Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. Some will attend a training session in Massillon in February. Teachers will be taught how to barricade doors with desks and chairs. Teachers and older students will be taught to swarm the shooter as a last resort. Police will quickly evacuate areas of the school not threatened by the shooter.
ALICE protocol requires many drills. Hartenstein said more information will be available soon with focus groups and a community survey planned.
• Plans are being developed to divide schools into zones to better identify a problem area.
• After-hours access to school buildings as well as bus security is under study.
• Parents would be required to show IDs when picking up children.
• North Canton police, Uniontown police, Stark and Summit county sheriff’s deputies and the State Highway Patrol all could be first responder should a call come from Greentown Elementary, which is located in Lake Township and under the jurisdiction of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.
• Safety ladders are to be installed on the second floors of Greentown Elementary and Hoover High School.
“This is not a one-shot treatment,” Hartenstein said. “We want to make sure everyone has an understanding of what is going on.”
“It is the way we are doing business now.”
Dottie McGrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.