The cost of providing safe schools - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The cost of providing safe schools

Updated:
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Heading into South Burlington's Tuttle Middle School means you'll be captured on camera and you'll need to sign in.  

"We have a security guard, you have to check in, you have to indicate as to what you're here for," said school Principal Karsten Schlenter. This make-shift security station comes on the heals of the Sandy Hook Shooting and is a temporary setup as the school awaits a new buzzer system for its front door. "The schools were constructed -- obviously -- at a time where this wasn't a concern; safety was not under the radar of most people," she said

The Vermont Principals' Association Executive Director Ken Page said some schools have more work to do than others. "All Schools, when it comes to safety, are not equal -- I mean it is easier to get into some than others," he said

Page is sharing suggestions for improvements from his members. They include taking advantage of school safety audits from the Vermont School Board Insurance Trust and urging lawmakers to either make exceptions to Vermont's moratorium on school construction for safety improvements, or to find other ways to fund them. "What I've said is that it would be really good at least if they opened up some avenues for people to apply for some safety monies," Page said.

Also on the list is the need for strong communication between school divisions and community first responders, as well as appropriate notification about individuals who may pose potential threats because of mental health challenges. He's also urging schools to invest in two-way radios -- something Page estimates already exist in 90-percent of Vermont high schools.
"A principal can get on and call for help and either a number of people can come running or they can call 911," he said.

Karsten Schlenter said ongoing training for teachers and security drills are also key. "We want to welcome parents and the community here yet, you know, we do have the task to make sure that it is done in a safe way," she said.

Schlenter admits finding that balance is tough.

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