MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - As Valley school districts continue to take new steps to increase security on campus to stop a potential shooter, now Mesa Public Schools is investing millions in keeping students safe.

With the push of a button, the principal at Pedro Guerrero Elementary School, near Broadway and Alma School roads, can now lock down the campus.

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New this school year, that button signals special blue light beacons around the building, letting students know danger could be near.

"Some of the complaints that I've gotten from P.E. teachers, from the band teachers, cafeteria workers, is that when the lockdown announcement is made, they can't hear the announcement because kids are too loud. So we put these blue lights in strategically located areas around the school," said Allen Moore, director of School Safety and Security.

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One of the lights has been installed in the hearing-impaired classroom. Moore says it's especially crucial for students there who may miss an audio announcement.

This system is just part of a much larger project, upgrading the security at all 82 schools in the district.

"The turning point for me was really Sandy Hook," said Moore.

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In the future, all visitors must be "buzzed" through not one, but two sets of locked doors. If there is an intruder, the office staff can quickly roll down a security shutter, protecting themselves as well.

"Currently, most of our schools are wide open. You walk into the front door, and there's (sic) multiple ways you can get around. And one of the concerns is if the clerks are distracted, somebody might be able to sneak by," said Moore. "This way, this will prevent this from happening."

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They've already remodeled the front entrances of 10 campuses, at the cost of $50,000 per building.

"I feel a lot better. I do not feel like we've arrived. I feel like we have a ways to go. But compared to where we were before Sandy Hook, we're in a lot better shape security-wise," said Moore.

The money was approved through a bond last November. Moore hopes these projects are just the beginning.

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Until that work can be completed, all interior doors now stay closed and locked during class time.

"The locks are one way. You can't get into the classroom, but you can always get out of the classroom," said Moore.

Moore also hopes to purchase ballistic security film to cover all exterior windows on all of the district's schools, costing $4 million, or $1.3 million if they only cover the windows on the front office.

And he says putting the blue light beacons in all of its schools will run the district about $380,000.

"When a child feels safe, they're going to learn better," said Moore.

 


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