Inspired by Sandy Hook, Lincoln schools upgrading security

Posted April 04, 2013, at 6:47 p.m.
Last modified April 04, 2013, at 7:57 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — About 70 percent of a Sandy Hook-inspired upgrade of security systems that should significantly boost confidence in school safety have been completed, RSU 67 officials said Thursday.

The next phase of security improvements has been at least delayed by votes Wednesday at a public budget meeting, but Superintendent Denise Hamlin expressed confidence that work completed since December already has significantly reduced the chances of a mass-casualty incident at RSU 67.

“I think that we are in really good shape,” Hamlin said Thursday. “We are securing our buildings. Students can’t get out and intruders can’t get in without buzzing in and out of the systems we have in place now, and we have done a lot of work with Lincoln police, staff and training to improve our security.”

The school system hosts about 1,150 students and 220 staff at three Lincoln schools — Ella P. Burr Elementary, Mattanawcook Junior High and Mattanawcook Academy, said David Ham, director of facilities at RSU 67, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.

Residents at the budget meeting on Wednesday voted against paying for improvements to security at the three schools with money from the schools’ capital and reserve funds, said Hamlin.

They voted 27-21 against installing security doors at the junior high school for $8,000. They voted 30-18 against replacing 50-year-old lockable classroom door knobs with handicapped-accessible door lever locks worth $5,000 at Burr, and rejected spending $45,000 to replace 20 exterior doors at the academy. The last vote was 36-12, officials said.

Under Hamlin’s plan, the work would have been finished this month. Now she hopes to get the work done during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, she said.

School officials began reviewing security within a week of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Hamlin said.

Authorities found 18 children and seven adults, including the gunman, dead at the school, and two children were pronounced dead later after being taken to a hospital. Another adult was found dead at a related crime scene in Newtown, bringing the toll to 28, state police said.

The biggest physical improvement to security since the review began has been the installation of exterior surveillance cameras, intercoms and remote-access-buzzer door locks at the main entrances of the district’s three schools, Hamlin said.

The replacement of the front entrance doors at Burr was already underway when Sandy Hook occurred, said Hamlin, who estimated that about $36,000 worth of security upgrades have been completed.

Several exterior building, exterior door and interior hallway cameras were installed or upgraded with the previous upgrades. Most of the exterior doors at the grade and junior high schools have been replaced, Hamlin said.

School leaders concentrated on Burr and the junior high because both house the most vulnerable population, Hamlin said.

Lincoln police also toured the schools and pointed out security flaws as well as offering school staff training in shooter scenarios, Hamlin said.

“We have done a lot of work with the active shooter training,” Hamlin said. “We will be doing training over the next two months with mock lockdowns with staff only and then do one that involves students.”

“Most of the work we want to do now would be replacement of older doors at the high school. At the other schools we have replaced most of the exterior doors,” Hamlin said.

The training sessions offered by Lincoln police, and the in-house training, should not be undervalued, Hamlin said.

“We have upgraded our emergency response plan and done training, and they kind of go hand in hand, I think,” Hamlin said. “You can have a facility where you have [physical security features] the way you want but if your staff isn’t trained, you are still vulnerable.”

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