Vt. schools beef up security in the wake of Sandy Hook - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. schools beef up security in the wake of Sandy Hook

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

This year, new student ambassadors are welcoming visitors to Burlington High School.

"I definitely want them to feel welcome here," said Anya Wisener, a senior.

"You come in and you are not sure where you are going and you just ask," said Callie Flynn, a sophomore.

But now, regardless of where folks are going, they're all coming in through the front door. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut, Burlington High School has locked its other entrances from the outside.

"Obviously it is very annoying because people use the courtyard a lot," Wisener said.

Principal Amy Mellencamp is behind the move. She's also reinforcing required name tags for teachers and is in the process of introducing new cameras to boost security on the campus. She says the multibuilding facility was originally designed to be an open welcoming space, not one to fend off trouble.

"At this point I think the security concerns and the sense that students and teachers have felt that perhaps we have been too open, we needed to address that," Mellencamp said.

Smaller schools are making changes as well. At Berlin Elementary School, visitors can walk through the first double doors, but before they can access students or teachers they need to key in a special code and be wearing a security badge.

"Ultimately we want to be proactive and so we want to prevent any emergency from happening in our school. So, a lot of that work involves walking around the school for example and taking a tour and identifying things that could be safety hazards," said Chris Dodge, the principal at Berlin Elementary School.

Dodge works with a security team on monthly safety drills. He says it's a tricky balance to make sure his 216 students are safe, but not scared.

"Our youngest students in this building are 3 years old. And how we address school safety with a 3-year-old is dramatically different from how we address school safety with a sixth-grader for example," Dodge said.

Both schools admit they still have items on their security wish lists, including curtains for classrooms in Berlin and better door locks at BHS. Still, they say they're making progress with the resources they have.

"It's inconvenient, but at the same time it is for our safety," Wisener said.

We reached out to numerous schools to be a part of this story and they declined. Some argued they could not win with parents because some wanted more security measures in place and others did not. In addition some schools said they simply did not have the resources to make more changes.

Vermont schools are mandated by law to have an emergency plan in place that includes at least one emergency drill a month. Additional specifics are not required. Many districts use the online Vermont School Crisis Guide as a model for their own plans. Click here to see it.

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