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Posted: 01/01/14

RCS increased security
following CT shooting

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools improved its security throughout 2013 following the second biggest elementary school mass murder in U.S. history.
       On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. before taking his own life. Prior to the school shooting, he shot and killed his mother.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said before winter break started, administrators met to discuss safety policies and procedures for the district. Meanwhile, principals held discussions with their own school safety or crisis teams.
       "I hate to say it, but if something similar were to occur in Romeo, we need to figure out whether the safety plans we have would be optimal," Campbell said. "Right now we think they are."
       The Board' of Education voted 7-0 on Jan. 7 to create a new ad hoc subcommittee that examines safety in the district. Trustee Gus Demas recommended an ad hoc safety subcommittee, which is only called upon when necessary and doesn't require amending board policy for its formation.
       "When we're talking about something as comprehensive as safety and security it's more than facilities," Demas said.
       Campbell stated she didn't see the district going to the degree of having armed guards at each building, but did anticipate installing buzz door systems in each school entrance.
       The district worked with Peter Locke, a Macomb County emergency management school liaison, on scrutinizing the district's safety and procedure plans. For instance, the district would hold its safety drills at different times of the day and more frequently.
       IDS, the district's architects, went through and examined each building to determine how remote doors will be installed, which would cost $273,000. The cost included buzz-in doors at all schools, a sally port at Indian Hills Elementary, video surveillance and card-based electronic locks for doors.
       The district also had Michigan State Police Trooper Walter Crider do a walk-through of the district's buildings in May. Natalie Davis, Romeo Engineering and Technology assistant principal, said the trooper received training from the Department of Homeland Security and used his newfound knowledge with Romeo.
       "It was the first time for someone who was trained by Homeland Security to come through our buildings, to me that is really exciting," Davis said.
       At a June 17 meeting, the board excluded the security updates from a list of sinking fund projects. Vice-president Sara Murray said she wanted details about the upgrades before approving them.
       "I don't recall that much of a presentation on that for the full board," she said.
       Board President Anita Banach believed the card swipes and other upgrades would be fine, calling them money well spent.
       "I'm looking at this less about safety and more about being fiscally and more responsible for our buildings and the contents that are in them," she said.
       The board held a special meeting on June 26 and voted 4-1 to spend $281,252 for the security upgrades. Murray was the dissenting vote, while Secretary Joe Fortuna and Demas were not present.
       Don Gratton, operations and maintenance director, said the funding increase covered bids coming in higher than anticipated. The increases also covered infrastructure meant for future improvements like retina or fingerprint scanners.
       In December, Gratton reported the costs were $269,414 to install the security upgrades. On Dec. 16, the board approved $1.9 million in sinking fund projects for 2014-15, which included $40,000 in security upgrades to the Croswell Center.


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