Safety is taken seriously in the Atwater school system and attention is being focused now on revamping classroom door locks.
Sylvia Nelson, Atwater Elementary School District’s interim assistant superintendent for human resources, hopes most of the classroom door locks at the eight campuses can be changed to lock from the inside before school resumes in the fall. That will allow a teacher or student to lock the door quickly from the inside of the classroom, instead of having to use the key, as was the case before.
Nelson said interior-locking doors are an outgrowth of safety measures put in place following the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut.
The next step, Nelson said, will be to look at other door locks such as those in the cafeterias, libraries and offices. She said the classroom door locks are the first priority.
Superintendent Sandy Schiber said the school board and district management are focused on creating a safe environment for children. Safety issues are a regular agenda item at each board meeting.
Linda Levesque, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the district has made significant progress over the last couple of years to provide greater safety for students and staff.
Two years ago, perimeter fencing was installed at sites, along with the first security cameras. Nelson said more cameras are still needed.
“Since then, we have completed a COPS grant with the Atwater Police Department, which implemented additional cameras and connectivity for the Police Department to view all safety camera activities,” Levesque said. “This was a wonderful collaboration project. This next year the district will continue to work on fine-tuning the ALICE (active shooter) training and implementation, and work on a districtwide safety plan that incorporates the site safety plans.”
Meanwhile, the district will host active shooter training Sept. 16-17; the first day will involve classroom instruction and the second day will be realistic drills of an active shooter scenario.
School board chairman Larry Whitney said the lock installation, being completed in phases, is going well and coming in under budget.
“We are trying to get as much done as possible before school starts,” Whitney said. “It’s an important issue; it’s paramount.”
Trustee Joe Hoffar, a retired Atwater police officer, said all board members feel the safety of students and staff has to be No. 1.