The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., cast its shadow over Millard school board members Monday night as they debated how much security — and at what cost — is enough to keep the district's 22,000 students safe.
Security projects accounted for $23.7 million, about 17 percent, of a failed November 2011 bond issue.
Now board members are trying to decide which projects to include in a second attempted bond issue likely to go on the ballot in April.
Had voters approved the original $140.8 million bond issue, Millard planned to install a new system of locks, buzzers and high-resolution video cameras to keep out unauthorized visitors. The plan called for locking front doors at all schools after students arrived and requiring visitors to buzz in.
Several board members expressed support Monday for again asking voters to approve the buzz-in locks and intercoms at the front doors; that carries a price tag of around $430,000.
A key question, however, was whether to also include alarms on all outer doors and whether to link those alarms to a central district location where they could be monitored. That would push up costs.
Board members appeared in less agreement on how to address the security issues caused by the “open classroom” design fad that swept school districts in the 1970s and 1980s.
The original bond issue would have paid for walls and doors to close off classrooms in 14 elementary schools so teachers could lock in students during “code red” intruder alerts.
On Monday, the superintendent suggested renovating five grade schools with the greatest need: Abbott, Cottonwood, Disney, Montclair and Neihardt.
“We picked the ones that were the most open and, by and large, the oldest,” Superintendent Keith Lutz said.
Board member Mike Pate said he was concerned about how parents would feel about renovating some schools but not all.
“The world's changed” after the Connecticut shooting, he said.
Installing walls in all the schools would push up the total bond issue cost, which is tentatively about $70 million.
Board member Mike Kennedy said he would rather spend the district's limited funds on shoring up security at outer doors, where the most likely intruders, sexual predators or spouses under protection orders, would get in.
Board member Paul Meyer suggested that teachers could be armed as they are in Israel.
Pate and board member Linda Poole, who teaches in the Papillion-La Vista schools, rejected that idea.
“More guns isn't the answer,” Pate said.
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