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Charleroi Area School District boosts security

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 1:22 a.m.

FALLOWFIELD TOWNSHIP – The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month didn't set off security planning in the Charleroi Area School District.

But the tragic event heightened the senses of all, especially because the victims were mostly elementary-aged students, Charleroi Area Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said.

Ferko made those comments during a forum Wednesday night to discuss safety and security at Charleroi Area. More than 80 residents attended the session at the high school.

Ferko said the goal was to inform parents about security steps that are in place or being implemented – as well as to seek public input.

“Every day you send us your most precious resource, your children,” Ferko said.

Ferko said district officials did not want a “knee-jerk reaction” to Sandy Hook, but a well-thought-out plan to improve security.

He said security cameras were added that permit security director Mike Kresich and administrators to view every car that drives onto the campus.

Kresich implored residents to tell those in authority of anything they may learn that could be suspicious. Referring to Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza, Kresich said, “Somebody, somewhere along the line, saw problems with this person and didn't come forward.

“All of the security measures won't mean a thing unless we work together and get that person help.”

Kresich said each classroom teacher has a flip-chart, crisis response handbook containing emergency contacts.

Kresich, a member of the Charleroi Regional Police Department, said the district campus is located in Fallowfield Township, which has no police force. However, he said regional police can be on campus in two minutes in the event of an emergency.

Kresich has met with local police and fire officials in recent months to explain the security process and is planning another session.

“A number of officers have kids here, too,” Kresich said. “And the fire department is very cooperative. We're in constant contact with them. If I ask them, they're here immediately.”

Ferko said the district is one of only three in the region to add U.S. Life Safety, which contains maps of the district campus on a web-based system.

Emergency drills are being discussed, Ferko said.

District officials are considering a system that locks all school building doors automatically. However, Ferko noted that students go from the high school to the building that houses the auditorium and gymnasium, for classes.

Parents expressed concerns that someone could walk into the building and brush past the greeter.

“I'm 28 years old, and I remember when we had to be buzzed in,” said April Snyder, parent of a kindergarten student.

“I'm concerned that those doors are not locked, and someone could come in at any time.”

Ferko said the district is looking into a swipe card system to secure doors and also badges for all employees.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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