About one year after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Berkeley Unified School District will spend about $2 million on a comprehensive school safety plan.
The school district hired two security consultants, Edu-Safe Associates and Dimensions Unlimited, at the cost of $70,000 to audit all 20 schools in the district in January 2013. After examining the recommendations given by the security consultants in their report, the school board voted two to one with two members absent, agreeing to spend money on armed-intruder training, increased video surveillance, campus address systems and the installation of new door locks engineered to prevent people from being locked inside classrooms.
Paula Phillips, president of Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, noted the privacy of food service workers has already been violated, especially at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where there are cameras on dining commons refrigerators.
“The key here isn’t really day-to-day watching — it’s that if you have a person break in, we can go back and look to see who did it,” said school district spokesperson Mark Coplan.
Dimensions Unlimited also reported campuswide communications systems were not operating at a proficient level and recommended an evaluation be conducted throughout the school district.
School districts across the country have responded to the increase in mass shootings in schools with their own comprehensive security plans, such as the decision by Buncombe County Schools in Asheville, N.C., to install electronic entry doors in all elementary schools and panic buttons at reception desks.
According to Susan Craig, director of student services for Berkeley’s district, Berkeley Police Department will carry out armed-intruder training in the district before the end of the school year.
“I’m pleased and not surprised that the board approved the recommendations,” Craig said. “There’s definitely a need for staff to be trained in armed-intruder preparedness, and I think anything we can do to promote safety in the schools is great.”