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Franklin Regional School District implements new security

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Visiting the five schools of the Franklin Regional School District will require more patience this academic year.

District officials are finishing security upgrades that will change the way visitors enter all school buildings starting on the first day of school, Monday.

“We ask that visitors be patient, especially at the high school,” Superintendent Jamie Piraino said. “We've reconfigured things so that it's safer for our students and staff.”

Four buildings — the middle school and Heritage, Newlonsburg and Sloan elementaries — will have video-intercom buzzers that enable school staff to see who is entering the building. The lone exception is the high school, where a voice intercom was installed.

“It's a simple way to make the buildings safer,” said Mary Catherine Reljac, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “It's a big impact in a simple way.”

Visitors have one way in and one way out of each building, Piraino said, and all visitors must show a photo identification.

“We want the buildings to be as safe as they can possibly be,” he said.

To facilitate the changes, major work had to be completed at some buildings. At Newlonsburg, workers are relocating the school office, where a secretary will screen visitors. The office will be in place about two weeks after classes begin.

The elementary school has the lowest enrollment of the five buildings, Piraino said, eliminating the need for a greeter, except during the office construction.

Offices at each of the other two elementary schools were already reconfigured for the new system, Piraino said.

At the high school, all front doors except the far left door will be locked during school hours.

Administrators and staff have been discussing changes to safety procedures at the schools throughout the past year, Piraino said. A regular review will continue, Reljac said.

“Safety is one of those things that we need to revisit regularly,” Reljac said. “The majority of the community's children are in our care. We need to be as careful as possible.”

Piraino said the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. reiterated the need for school officials to ensure schools are as safe as possible. For instance, each school secretary has an immediate contact with emergency responders and administrators – a similar set-up is in place at the Murrysville municipal building.

There was no incident or threat that prompted the changes, officials said. Murrysville Police Chief Tom Seefeld works with the district's safety committee and noted that there were several upgrades needed to the entrances at all school buildings.

“We've been very fortunate in this region that there has been no serious or critical incident,” Seefeld said. “Realistically, it can happen anywhere. We're responsible to implement the best practices we can.

“Nothing is 100 percent safe and secure, but we've put our heads together to get the best plan possible.”

Piraino asked parents and visitors to be patient as the new systems are implemented.

“It might take a few extra minutes, but it is worth it,” Piraino said. “We've been entrusted with a great responsibility here.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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