The mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school has raised concerns about school safety across the country including the Tri-Lakes area.
On Dec. 14 a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and despite the security measures the school had, he was able to get in anyway and kill six adults and 20 children.
Larry Borland, Academy School District 20 chief of security, said immediately after the shooting happened and for the foreseeable future the district has increased patrol operations particularly around the elementary schools.
“We've also had our patrol officers going in and actually physically checking things like our panic alarms, radio communication systems and the buzzer systems that we use to grant entry into our elementary schools,” Borland said.
Since the shooting the district has had concerned parents call and email asking what the district is doing to keep their kids safe.
Sandy Hook elementary also had a buzzer system but the shooter was able to force entry into the school by using one of his weapons.
“There is not any fool proof way to keep someone from breaking into a building. I think we all know that if someone wants to get into a building or door badly enough they'll find a way in,” Borland added.
Borland said typically armed patrol officers patrol the elementary schools throughout the day and there are armed security officers assigned to all the middle schools and high schools in the district. In addition they also have a Colorado Springs Police Officer assigned to all the high schools within the city. Borland said they will evaluate the increased patrols after students get back from holiday break.
“We're going to judge it by what we think we need to do. We'll see what else transpires over the holiday break and kind of how our community is feeling once we get back,” Borland said.
Students in school districts around the state and country practice evacuation and lock down drills in case such an incident should happen.
Borland said a lock down is when there is an imminent threat to the school either from somebody inside the school or in the vicinity outside the school. The procedure is to put ever student and every staff member behind a locked door.
“We don't get out from behind the locked doors until a police officer or armed security officer comes and opens the door for you,” Borland said. “We also train our staff to use their best judgment. If they're in a situation where they can take their kids and they can get out of harm's way we're certainly not against having them do that.”
Lockdown drills and evacuation drills are required to be done in the district. Additionally every school is required to participate in a tabletop exercise once a year. Next month Air Academy High School will participate in an evacuation drill where the district will take buses to the school and load the kids up to find out how fast they can get kids loaded on the buses and out of the United States Air Force Academy. Other schools have participated in this exercise in the past.
“It's been this way since April of 1999. Unfortunately it's the new normal,” Borland said.