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January 23, 2013

New buzzer/ video system aims for safer schools

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

The Troy School District has implemented a number of permanent changes following a Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six teachers and administrators were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School before the gunman took his own life.    

“During normal school hours, all outside doors will remain locked at all school buildings except for the front doors at Troy High and Athens High School,” said Board of Education President Nancy Phillipart at the Jan. 15 school board meeting. She explained that security personnel are on duty at all times at the front doors of the high schools. The Troy School District contracted with a private security firm made up of former Troy police officers to patrol the high schools last year.

“A buzzer system and video camera will be piloted at one elementary school and one middle school to figure out which system works best,” said Kerry Birmingham, community and media affairs director for the Troy School District. 

Within a month, the best system will be installed first at schools where the office does not have a direct view of the front doors, then to all elementary and middle schools shortly after.

Also, the district will install keyless entries at selected entry points at each building to allow staff and students to re-enter the building following recess and physical education classes.

In the interim, main entrances to elementary and middle schools will be carefully monitored, and outside visitors are required to check in at the office.

Birmingham explained that the cost of implementing the additional security measures is estimated to be between $7,000 and $9,000 at each school.

“Troy School District administrators and security staff will attend training through Homeland Security at Oakland Schools called ‘How to Respond to an Active Shooter,’ and will train building staffs,” Phillipart said.

“Police investigators tell us that these additional measures will put us in an extremely good position in regards to safety,” Phillipart added. “We recognize that these additional measures may, at times, be inconvenient for visitors. For this reason, we ask that parents and community members limit the need to come inside our schools to times when they are volunteering or for a planned activity.

“Having parents volunteer is essential to our schools, and we appreciate your support as we balance visitor access with the need to provide the safest possible environment for our students.” 

Troy police Sgt. Andy Breidenich said police will provide more training for staff in the school districts with buildings in Troy in the coming months.

He added that the Troy police were in the process of coordinating security plans for schools with all law enforcement agencies across Oakland County, “so we get on the same page with tactics.”

“We have (security) plans for all schools in Troy,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.