The second of two meetings to discuss school safety in Linwood led to discussion of assault rifles, deadbolts and bulletproof glass.
The main point of contention Wednesday was whether community schools such as those in Linwood can do more for protection in the post-Newtown world without sacrificing a welcoming atmosphere.
The Linwood Police Department is already stepping up its presence in the schools, Chief Robert James said.
"Everything is hyped right now, but everybody's emotions will settle and people will forget," James said. "We're not going to do that. We are going to be frequent, we are going to be unpredictable and we are going to be in the buildings."
Along with James, Linwood Superintendent Tom Baruffi, director of facilities and security Chuck Carter and Asst. Fire Chief Dave Buzby were at the Belhaven School to answer parents' questions about security.
Baruffi talked about the checkpoint idea that was brought up at last month's meeting at the Seaview School.
"A lot of people felt we weren't doing enough," he said. "It led to some interesting conversation. One of the moms (said), 'I came in this morning, no one asked me who I was or why I was there.' We checked after the meeting and she was right. But what do we do when we have a program and get 150 parents coming into the building?"
At a recent meeting in Camden County, Baruffi said, "It took ten minutes for me to get through for my meeting. That was with four people (in front of him). What do we do when we have 250 coming in for a program? I'll tell you right now — you'll miss the program."
Carter explained that while there were 56 cameras surrounding the building, the district cannot afford to hire someone whose only job is to monitor the feeds.
Parent Steve Abramoff asked why instead of magnetic strips, classroom doors aren't equipped with deadbolts.
"It's a time issue," Abramoff said. "The longer someone can't get into a classroom, they'll try another room."
Carter responded that besides the cost issue of buying deadbolts for 240 doors, there are also possible fire-regulation issues.
"Sometimes solutions that at home seem very simple are very complex when you get to the classroom," Carter said.
Students needing to bolt and unbolt locks every time they leave the classroom would interrupt the process, added third-grade teacher and Linwood Education Association President Samantha Coyle.
"If they did it every single time, if I was going back and forth all the time, you'd lose the flow," Coyle said. "I don't want kids worrying, 'Is it locked, it is not locked.' I want kids there to learn."
Abramoff also wondered why parents need to be so involved in the schools, saying that if access were restricted it could be seen as a tradeoff of less outside access for more internal safety.
"It's nice to do it, but the building's for them, not for us," Abramoff said of the students.
"So you would lock the parents out of the schools 24/7?" asked Baruffi. "It will change the entire culture if we have no parents coming into the schools at all."
Seaview Principal Susan Spears agreed.
"We try at Seaview to have a warm atmosphere," Spears said. "It's a sense of trust with each other. Even something as minor as dropping something off outside the door (instead of coming inside) changes things a lot."
For his part, Carter tried to sound a note of realism.
"What I say you're not going to like, but it's true," Carter said. "What happened in Connecticut was a random act of violence, you can't prevent that. If someone were to come to the front of the school with an assault rifle, shoots the windows out, shoots the doors out and enters the building, there's nothing we can do to prevent that from happening."
The key, he said, is stressing drills, preparation and communication with police.
Added Spears, following talk of the cost of bulletproof glass and keeping parents from entering the buildings so often, "I think people who want to harm us will find a way. I feel all these things we're talking about are just keeping the good people out."
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