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Access to T/E Schools is Being "Hardened"

School officials and police brief the public on increased security measures being implemented at Tredyffrin Easttown Public Schools.

The Tredyffrin Easttown School District is taking several steps to make it even harder for potential bad guys to gain access to the district's school buildings.

The process is literally called "hardening" according to district officials who briefed the public during a nearly two hour meeting Wednesday night attended by hundreds of concerned parents and interested community members.

The meeting at Valley Forge Middle School was held in response to the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut last month.

Among the procedures that will now become part of daily school life in the district's eight schools:

  • All visitors will be "buzzed in" through locked main entrance doors once the class day begins. Currently the only access to schools during the class day (once all the students are in the building in the morning) is through the front door. Now those doors will be locked and all visitors will be required to use a camera-equipped intercom system to get into the buildings. The locked doors will be controlled by a receptionist stationed in the front halls of the buildings. If the receptionist is not on station, access to the school will be controlled by someone in the front office. Both the receptionist and school office will have video monitors that allow them to see who is at the door before buzzing visitors in.
  • Bullet-resistant film will be installed on the glass of front school entrance ways. The film, which police and district officials say is the same material that is used to make U.S. Army and Navy facilities more bullet resistant, is designed to stop shots from breaking through glass. Officials at the meeting were quick to point out that it will not make the glass bullet proof, but is designed to stop one or a few limited number of gunshots from breaking through glass.
  • A photo ID will be required to enter schools. Once visitors are granted initial access to a building, they will be required to show a photo ID.
  • A consultant will conduct a security audit of school buildings to make review potential physical plant security issues and also to look at procedures for keeping students and staff safe during an emergency. District Superintendent Dan Waters says he has hired former Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Andy Chambers to conduct the security audit. Waters says Chambers, who retired at the end of 2011, was contracted because he has 25 years of experience working with district officials and school building staff and does not have to spend time being brought up to speed on existing procedures the way two other consultants who were being considered for the job would have.
  • Lock down and Emergency Drills will continue and may be increased in some buildings. The district says emergency drills for situations ranging from a gunman in the building to biological and other hazardous situations are already done every year.
  • Increased police presence outside and inside the school buildings. The chiefs of both the Easttown and Tredyffrin Police Departments say they have increased patrol officers' visibility at the schools since the day of the massacre in Newtown. Plans are being made for officers to spend more time inside the schools as well so that students can become even more comfortable with officers and develop a rapport with them. Police already visit schools but will now add programs like having lunch with students.

The two police chiefs and school officials emphasized that T/E Schools have long been ahead of most schools in the state in terms of safety and security measures and that tragic shooting incidents like the ones in Newtown, Columbine and West Virginia provide an opportunity to review procedures and physical plant security based on what is learned through such tragedies.

The new entrance intercoms and ballistic film for the glass are expected to be in place as soon as the end of January.

Devon Resident January 10, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Why limit the ballistic film to the front entry? I think it should be added to ground-level windows as well. I know at New Eagle Elementary, there are ground level classrooms with big windows right next to the front entry. Those should be protected.
Bill January 10, 2013 at 02:01 PM
I asked that very same question last night. The response was that the front doors are considered to be the most likely entrance for a threat. However, the School Board hasnt ruled out completely the notion of adding the impact resistant film to more ground level windows. I must add that last night's meeting was well presented and fairly well attended. Thanks go out to the officers and school board members on last night's panel.
Concerned Mom January 10, 2013 at 03:08 PM
I think it is great that the district is taking steps to make it harder for potential bad guys to gain access to the school buildings; however, I have heard rumors that the district is going to replace custodians, cafeteria workers, aids, and security with third party companies due to issues with the budget. As far as safety in the schools is concerned, these district employees know our children and recognize parents and other caregivers that would typically be admitted to the school buildings during the day. If third party companies are subcontracted to be in the schools, the familiarity of who belongs and who doesn’t goes away. In turn it would be more likely that someone who shouldn’t be allowed to enter the school buildings would be given access even with the new systems that are going to be put in place.
cast4 January 10, 2013 at 07:29 PM
I like putting the officers on patrol in schools like Upper Merion did. A lot of school shootings involve students who just bring a gun into school. Securing the perimeters of the schools only would do nothing to hamper students bringing in guns. If the students knew there was a chance of an officer being on patrol in the school at any time, they might be less likely to act.
Ruth Chaplin January 10, 2013 at 11:11 PM
What about recess (playground) security?
joy samules January 11, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Recess was vague and an area where there are no real rules in play. Personally having officers patrol the schools most especially during recess times makes sense right? However the board of supervisors opted to reject the $50,000 (tax payers expense) expert advice and hire more officers. So they are stretched thin.
joy samules January 11, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Concerned mom yes it is true they are seriously thinking about outsourcing custodians (many have been part of the T/E family forever) and secretaries. Anything to save a buck? In times like this it's time to reevaluate what is best for the children.
concerned parent January 11, 2013 at 01:16 AM
unfortunately, i couldnt make the meeting, but i hope there is further study to come. i dont have the answers for sure, but ballistic "film" and upgraded intercoms dont seem to address the fundamental problems--e.g., what if someone walks in with the students in the morning, as school opens, blending in, with weaponry in their backpack. or, what if the perpetrator is a current student, who knows about all the protocols in place?
Pat Campbell January 11, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Will everyone here be putting ballistic film on their home windows? How about alarm systems and no more cleaning people? Are the people who clean your house now cleared through some sort of security check? I understand the angst, but seriously -- you cannot protect yourself against any and all ills. You have to be prudent about the decisions you make. "Anything to save a buck" is really a matter of law. Ask the townships to step up and fund more police, because the schools have legal limits on the taxes they can levy. I think the outsourcing discussions will dramatically decline as they should under these circumstances. But the notion of how do you prevent someone from "blending in" in the morning means metal detectors....are you prepared for your children at every level to be searched and require a photo ID to enter the building? Do you want your kids to be afraid to go to school, or to feel that the adults in their lives are doing things to protect them? If recess is dangerous, so is soccer practice, public playgrounds, and playing in your yard. Again, ask your supervisors to increase police staffing levels. One could park outside every school every day....but no one can stop a plane from flying over and dropping a bomb. Or throwing a grenade at a bus. We need to feel safe or terror wins. And who will decide whose children present a threat? Many of these perpetrators had problems....but none you could prosecute.
joy samules January 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM
I agree the township needs to hire more officers. Just to keep a better eye on the schools. Our kids enjoy a fair amount of safe freedom at the high school level and we expect it here in T/E. I would hate to see them lose their freedom and feel like school is more like a prison then a safe place to learn. Kids also need recess and they need to be able to trust everyone around them most especially in an emergency.

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