90YS Education Watch
Superintendent tackles security flaws in older schools
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Security has once again moved up the priority list at many schools across the country. After the mass shooting in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado, many states required schools to hold lockdown drills that depict active shooter situations.
But after the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, districts are once again studying their policies and procedures. And here in Southern Arizona, a principal in the Flowing Wells District discovered a serious flaw in his school's security that dates back a few decades --- when schools had been built to be inviting -- for students and parents -- often giving them open access to common areas.
Now, it's a flaw that one principal worked quickly to fix.
The new sign that now greets visitors at Richardson Elementary School reads: Front Door Locked.
The doors to the right of the sign had been the only way to enter and leave the school. But as principal Lyle Dunbar checked his own security measures, he realized it wasn't enough to keep his students safe.
"So the original system was the door was unlocked. (Visitors) would come right through(the front) door. There was a sign -- a big placard that told visitors they would need to sign into the office."
But Dunbar noticed that two classrooms are located to the right of the main entrance - becoming quick and easy targets for a gunman. "They're not locked. We have kids coming in and out of them all the time."
And it wasn't just those classrooms that worried Dunbar. "So once you enter this hallway here, if you have bad intentions, you have access to the entire school basically now."
So Dunbar took a step back -- outside -- and came up with a quick cost-effective solution. Dunbar said visitors now enter to the left of the main doors through the Nurses office. Dunbar said, "So this door was already here. It was already an access door and as you enter in. Now you don't have access to the school. You have access to our nurses office -- our health office and you walk through here and gain access to the office at which point you sign in."
And the only cost of this security change was the construction of a wall -- just beyond the door -- that provides some privacy for our students.
But Dunbar isn't done. He said he wants to put in panic buttons in each of the classrooms to signal a lockdown. "We need to make sure we can do it as quickly as possible and it might be that a teacher might need to implement a lockdown not me," he said.
Dunbar is also looking into getting a surveillance system, but he says it's really expensive and budgets are tight. But Dunbar and the Flowing Wells District superintendent, Dr. Nic Clement, said they'll continue to do everything they can to make Richardson Elementary and all the schools as secure as possible.