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Newhall district winds up enhanced security measures

Shooting at Newtown, Conn., school prompted move

Posted: October 23, 2013 4:47 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2013 4:47 p.m.

Elementary school students exit the recently completed fence and gates at Oak Hills School in Stevenson Ranch on Wednesday. The fence was part of the Newhall School District's series of new security upgrades at campuses. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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The Newhall School District is putting the finishing touches on about $200,000 worth of security improvements at its schools, a move district officials say will keep students safer without hampering public access to campuses.

Work began back in December after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, according to Ronna Wolcott, the Newhall district’s assistant superintendent of business services.

“The actual impetus was what happened with Newtown,” Wolcott said Wednesday. “We met with some of our school groups and took some input as to what they wanted to see.”

Those discussions led to about $200,000 in security enhancement projects around the district, including new fencing, additional training for employees and some additional staff to keep a watchful eye on students and visitors.

“We wanted to make sure that we were able to track who came onto campus,” Wolcott said. “And one of the ways we went about doing that was to fence the front of the schools so people would be directed to the office to sign in.”

Such work was especially important at the several district schools that border public parks, Wolcott said, as those have to be secured in a way that doesn’t effect public access.

“There’s always a balance between wanting to be open and accessible to our community and our parents and trying to ensure safety for our students,” Wolcott said.

At sites where the office is not located at the front of the school, the district has installed new video-and-buzzer systems, which allow school staffers to remotely identify and grant access to visitors.

Wolcott said reaction to the new features and procedures from employees and parents has largely been positive.

“But then there are always those few folks that are used to doing things a certain way and being able to access the campus a little bit more freely,” Wolcott said. “So we’re encouraging them to comply with our procedures.”

Money for the improvements come from safety credit funds through the district’s insurance, Wolcott said.

Fencing work at district schools was completed last week, Wolcott said, so the primary balance of work left is cosmetic, namely painting the fences so they match the colors of the school buildings themselves.

“We don’t want to build things that look like prisons,” Wolcott said.
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