Thursday marks five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting rampage in Connecticut.
It has been said the tragedy has changed the way students, parents and officials around the country view school safety.
Craig Pletenik, communications director with the Phoenix Union High School District, said the district has been proactive about security on the district’s 17 school campuses. A total of 27,800 students are enrolled.
He said the district’s security changes aren’t in a direct response to the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“We know schools can be a soft target,” said Plentenik. “That’s why educators and students go through active shooter drills at least every quarter.”
Right now, the district is working on replacing locks on classroom doors.
The old doors only lock from the outside. The new locks allow for teachers to lock on the inside, a feature that could save lives if there’s a threatening person trying to get in the classrooms.
“We’re not sure why the old design only allowed for teachers to lock from the outside” he said.
So far, maintenance has finished at least 30 percent of the job. Plentenik expects all 3,000 door locks in the district to be replaced by spring 2018.
The cost for the security upgrade is estimated at $100,000, not including labor."That’s the one thing they (teachers) wish could be done and so we’re doing it. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming," he said. "We have to be prepared. It’s happened all over the country."You never know when it may be your school so we do a lot of training and taken a lot of precautions," he added.
Other security features include security cameras, and access key entry system with locks that can be programmed to automatically lock at certain times.
Plentenik added school resource officers and security cameras have always been a part of the security plan. The front desk is too, responsible for signing in all campus guests.
One of the English teachers at Central High School, Mark Williams, is especially invested in school safety and brings a unique perspective to safety."I don’t worry about it because we train here. I’m trained," said Williams who is on the district's crisis team and helped develop the district's active shooter program.
He retired after 21 years in law enforcement, working in the Organized Crime Division of the State Attorney General.
He wrote a book called 47 seconds encouraging educators to know how to react in an emergency situation.
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