Pittsford, N.Y. — This Wednesday, elementary school students in the Pittsford School District returned to school after winter break. Visitors at all five Pittsford elementary schools noticed a major change in security.
“Absolutely the tragedy in Newtown forced us to look inward at what are current practices were in terms of security and we wanted to be responsive,” says Pittsford Assistant Superintendent Michael Pero.
Pero says that the district also received calls and e-mails from parents who were concerned about safety after the Newtown shootings, especially at the elementary schools.
That’s because, until this week, visitors could just walk into the school through the front doors.
“Prior to this week, we had all external doors locked except the front door,” Pero says. “We had sign-in procedures at the front desk, but by that juncture, people were already inside [the school]. This was an area that we could improve on.”
Now the front doors at all the elementary schools are locked. Visitors must press a buzzer outside. The front door is monitored by video surveillance and the person at the front desk asks for the visitor’s name and business at the school through an intercom system. Once they identify the visitor, the door is unlocked, the visitor signs in and shows the front desk attendant a driver's license. Then, the visitor is given a name tag to wear while they are in the school.
It cost the district about $20,000 to install the system at all five elementary schools.
According to district officials, the response has been good.
“I think [the response] has been extremely favorable.” Pero says. “We've had an equal amount of people saying ‘Thank you’.”
Parent Amy Miller says she appreciates the district’s quick action to address extra security needs.
“I think everyone accepts it and is glad that it’s in place.” Miller says. “It happened quickly so it's good to see that happening.”
Many local school districts already have a similar security system in place.
“I don't want to say the word ‘complacent’ because we were never complacent,” says Pero. “We have so many security measures in place that people aren't aware of and I so thought that we were pretty safe at the time. What Newtown did was make us reflect on how to make our schools safer.”
Sandy Hook Elementary School also had a similar buzzer system in place at the time of the shootings. Reports say the shooter, Adam Lanza, was able to get into the school by shooting through the school’s glass door.
However, Pittsford School District officials say that the new security measures could help slow down a person who is trying to enter the school to cause harm.
The district will continue to gather more information on how to make their schools safer. The district has also planned meetings with several law enforcement agencies to discuss school safety.