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Anchorage reviews security at district schools

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 1:01am

ANCHORAGE — Security is being reviewed at Anchorage School District schools following the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut that left 20 children and six teachers and staff dead.

District officials said that for the most part, school went on as usual on Monday. Some teachers held meetings in class so students could talk about the school shooting. Principals and staff were reminded to stay vigilant, the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/tBXZdE ) reported Tuesday.

According to Anchorage police, school officials and the teachers’ union, the school district has security procedures in place that include regular emergency drills. The school in Connecticut, however, had a higher level of security. Visitors to that school had to be buzzed into the locked front door — something that is not in place in Anchorage. Authorities said the gunman, Adam Lanza, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Anchorage Superintendent Jim Browder said there is nothing short of having an armed guard at every door when somebody that “deranged” is intent on getting inside.

Browder said some improvements to security may be needed. He has asked Mike Abbott, the district’s chief of operations, to assess security school by school. The superintendent wants to know if teachers can lock their classroom doors from the inside. He wants to know the location of security cameras and if individual schools have panic buttons or silent alarms.

Browder said schools might be safer if they are fenced, front doors are locked all day, or security staff is beefed up. But those are measures the district needs to explore with the community at large, he said. He hopes to encourage that discussion at a meet-and-greet set for Jan. 8 at Hanshew Middle School.

Schools routinely lock side doors once the day begins so visitors come in through the front, said Andy Holleman, a 15-year teacher who this year became president of the Anchorage Education Association.

“There’s an awful lot of safety built into the schools,” Holleman said.

If a school suspects a dangerous intruder on the grounds or a shooter nearby, the principal can call for lockdown. That means all outside windows and doors are closed and locked, and no one can enter or leave. Students are told to go quickly to the nearest classroom where doors are locked from the inside and to get under cover.

“So within, I’m going to say, 25 seconds, 30 seconds of a lockdown call, the hallways are empty. They’re silent. The lights are off in the rooms. The kids are out of sight,” Holleman said.

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