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Deer Lakes School Board looks at tighter security

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:48 a.m.

In the wake of a devastating attack at a Connecticut elementary school, Deer Lakes School Board members want to discuss school security with the community.

The board on Tuesday decided that a special meeting is needed after reviewing a proposal for security improvements to the entryways at three of the district's schools.

A date for the meeting is expected to be set by Friday. Board President Lisa Merlo said it will be sometime during the last week of January or the first week of February.

Board Vice President L. Douglas McCausland suggested having a public meeting after hearing the proposal from HHSDR Architects & Engineers for new security vestibules at Deer Lakes Middle School, East Union Intermediate Center and Curtisville Primary Center.

The proposed improvements at all three schools generally involve installation of additional secure doors, and directing all visitors through the schools' offices before they would gain entry to the rest of the buildings.

HHSDR Vice President Matthew Franz said the project carries an estimated cost of $155,000.

Construction costs were estimated at $35,000 at Curtisville, $40,000 at the middle school and $45,000 at East Union.

If approved, Franz's time line showed bids being awarded in April, with construction starting June 10 and being finished by Aug. 30.

Board member William Lupone Jr. asked about other alternatives. He questioned the effectiveness of securing main entrances when the district's buildings have many doors.

“It's sort of like we have screen doors everywhere else but the front gate,” he said.

Franz said some schools are replacing doors with glass with steel doors with peepholes; some are putting alarms on doors that sound if they're left open for too long.

Lupone asked about replacing glass in doors with glass that includes wire mesh. Such windows cost $500 and up, said Garry Dixson, the district's director of buildings, grounds and transportation.

“It's a public building. Do you want to stop being that?” McCausland said. “You're never going to be fool-proof.

“No one can plan for an insane person doing an insane act.”

Board member James McCaskey said the board needs to talk about armed guards and metal detectors. It's a discussion he said he's not afraid to have.

“You need to know if there's a weapon or a gun when it enters your building,” he said.

Immediately after the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Deer Lakes stopped allowing parents from coming into its schools to have lunch with their children.

Parents mostly did this at the elementary level, and would sometimes bring siblings, acting Superintendent Janet Ciramella said.

Ciramella said the practice was disallowed to restrict who is in the buildings to students and personnel.

Also, visitors are now not allowed in the schools without an appointment.

Lockdown practices involving West Deer police will be held, Ciramella said.

Parents will be notified and told what week practices will be held, but not the specific day.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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