South Shore schools on both sides of Stateline continue to refine security plans a month after the Connecticut shooting that left 26 people dead.
The Lake Tahoe Unified School District hired consultant Al Frangione to create a comprehensive technology and security plan for the schools. Frangione, who presented his findings to the district at last week's board meeting, outlined the need to look at access points and monitor entrances.
"The goal is to keep it secure, safe. But so it doesn't look like a prison ... No matter what, it's our responsibility. The days are gone when you can't do it," LTUSD Superintendent James Tarwater said.
Tarwater estimates that the district will release the complete security plan in about two months, while construction of additional fences to strengthen school perimeters will likely occur this summer.
Parents will be asked to be more alert and to wear identification badges whenever they're on LTUSD property. Staff will be coached in strategies to defend themselves and their students in the case of an armed intruder, and more security cameras will be placed near main entrances.
Though all the details aren't finalized yet, Tarwater said safety measures like metal detectors and locks to "buzz" people in are a possibility, especially at South Tahoe High School, where security is complicated by a large campus and multiple access points.
"We will work with Al Frangione to help come up with a plan. Right now it's to keep the perimeters watched and escort visitors to the office. We definitely want a balanced approach. You can't depend on only one thing," Tarwater said.
Administrators in the Douglas County School District will meet next week and again in February to discuss school safety procedures and review strategies to defend against a gunman in an all-day session with law enforcement.
DCSD Superintendent Lisa Noonan said she is reviewing several plans to enhance school safety that should be finalized around March. She didn't want to publicize the areas where she thinks security could be improved until the final option is chosen, and she said the county will continue to stress the importance of daily vigilance.
Zephyr Cove Elementary School Principal Nancy Cauley said that protocols to prepare for a gunman on campus are nothing new. All the doors at the elementary school were re-keyed last year, enabling teachers to lock their doors from the inside. Whether they teach behind the locked door during the school day is up to each educator, Cauley said.
"I think schools for the most part are very safe places. It's a tragedy what happened in Connecticut, and we can't let our guard down. But we're doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our students," she said.
Whittell High School Principal Crespin Esquivel holds monthly drills for students and teachers to prepare for emergency scenarios from a fire to a gunman. Common sense always has to be a key player in security decisions since there are so many situations teachers needs to prepare for, he said.
"One thing I always tell my staff is, 'You're going to be making some tough decisions. You have to decide whether to evacuate or lockdown.' My hope is that they would be calm and do what we've done in practice," Esquivel said.