Twinsburg -- The school district is reassessing building architecture and visitation policies to ensure student safety, by encouraging preemptive action and minimizing threats before they arise.
As part of an ongoing effort to improve security in the district, school officials are considering redesigning their building entrances and visitor screening procedures to improve security against potential threats and increase the efficiency of foot traffic.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Lenzo said there is no formal estimate for what the redesigns would cost the district. The district should receive design options and cost estimates in coming weeks. These estimates and options will then go to the Board of Education for approval.
Lenzo said he is consulting with contractors, examining the buildings to determine how best to redesign doorways and entrances to create a safe environment.
"We're in preliminary design discussion, nothing is formalized," Lenzo said. "You have a design professional come in and measure space and look at options and a lot of it has to do with the functionality of the building. Each one is independently different than the others. The designer is looking at ... the existing structure and what applications could work."
Lenzo added that the district will continue to receive cost estimates and design recommendations as the progress continues. Some may entail wall construction and interior design, while others may require more extensive outside engineering.
"In one application for a particular building, it might mean putting up a couple different walls and a counter or a pass-through window," Lenzo said. "In one of the others, it might mean changing a little of the outside entrance to the building and it's a little more expensive."
Possible design options for some of the school buildings include atrium areas to screen visitors while making it easier for parents to make deliveries to students.
"Let's say a young person forgets their backpack or trumpet at home," Lenzo said. "This entryway configuration might make it easier for parents to just come in, drop those things off and not have to enter the building and try to walk down to a classroom. It may be more efficient for parents in that regard and of course it helps us more closely monitor who visits our buildings."
Superintendent Kathryn Powers said the doorway redesigns would work in combination with other measures, including replacing the current door keys with an electronic remote system and introducing photo-ID visitor badges that can be tracked electronically. Classrooms and other areas in district buildings will also be marked with decals that can guide responding emergency personnel in case of an incident.
Powers said these security improvement efforts have been developed through a strong partnership with Police Chief Chris Noga.
"The chief and I have been meeting frequently since the first of the year," Powers said. "He sees things through a law enforcement lens ... I see them through an educator lens. I want parents to know that we're doing things."
Noga said that though school security has become a more immediate topic of discussion in recent months, student safety has always been critical to him and his department.
"Lt. Bob Gonsiewski, School Resource Officer Ron Fruscella and I have been working closely with Mrs. Powers and Mr. Lenzo since January on the issue of school security, but this has been an ongoing process with the district for many years," Noga said. "The safety of our students is top priority."
Noga added that the ongoing school security improvement process could soon involve the appointment of a second School Resource Officer to join Fruscella.
"Now that the department is at 33 full-time sworn officers, I feel we have the staffing to respond to this request from the district. We will start the second resource officer who will work out of Chamberlin Middle School at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year."