Police presence heightened, new systems installed in D51

Students in School District 51 schools should expect to see a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy roaming their halls, visiting the school office or dining in the cafeteria this week.

The district requested law enforcement increase their visibility in all local public schools starting Monday following Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., District 51 Safety and Transportation Director Tim Leon said. Officers plan to visit schools in their regular “beat” areas throughout the week, Leon said, and can pick up a free lunch and dine with students in the school cafeteria.

The goal is to give officers a chance to meet kids and help students and staff feel safer, Leon said.

“If someone has the idea to do something and they see a patrol car (outside a school), they’re less likely to do something,” Leon said. “If they don’t know when that officer’s going to show up, it can keep people on guard a little bit.”

Leon said the increased law enforcement presence in schools will continue at least through Friday and possibly after students return from winter break Jan. 8.

Students returning to Redlands Middle School, Mount Garfield Middle School and Rocky Mountain Elementary after break will notice new keyless lock systems installed in their buildings and Dual Immersion Academy will get a keyless lock upgrade. Keyless lock systems allow staff to enter a building with a key card so most school doors can remain locked to the public.

Staff also can use their cards on a special sensor in the building to lock down the entire school in an emergency. Staff in other schools have to lock each door manually.

Leon said the district plans to install more keyless systems at other schools but the timeline for installation will depend on how soon the district can come up with additional funding. A $50,000 Community Oriented Policing Services matching grant paired with $50,000 from the district paid for installation in summer 2011 of keyless lock systems at Central High School, Grand Mesa Middle School and Clifton Elementary. Money left over from the grant will pay for this month’s installations.

In addition to a keyless system, Rocky Mountain Elementary will get a buzzer system over the break. The system involves people entering a main door to the building, then waiting behind a steel frame glass door in a vestibule until they are “buzzed” into the school by a staff member. The system is similar to one Sandy Hook Elementary had but was planned long before the shooting, Leon said.

“It’s sturdy glass but it is glass,” Leon said.

The shooter in Newtown shot through Sandy Hook’s glass door to enter that school. Leon said bullet-proof glass is “amazingly expensive” and not a likely addition to local schools under the current budget.

Continuing precautions at district schools include four lockdown drills per year at each school — double the state standard — and asking schools to lock as many exterior doors as possible during school.

Staff also are instructed to question people who are in a school without a visitor sticker or district ID badge and all visitors are asked to sign in at the office.


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