Haines School administrators have tightened security measures and are taking other precautions in the wake of school shootings elsewhere in the country.
Some of the measures were under way before the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December, but others – including keeping east-side doors to the building locked during the day – went into effect in recent weeks following a closer look at security, said school superintendent Michael Byer.
Byer also has had recent meetings with Haines Borough and police officials about school-based crisis response and, starting last year, instituted lock-down drills.
The east-side doors previously were open during the day, as high school students are free to leave the campus during lunch. But those doors, located at the gym entrance, now will be on the same daytime schedule as doors to the elementary side of the building.
Except for the main entrance, school doors open at 8 a.m. and are relocked at 8:45 a.m. They’re unlocked again at 3 p.m. On the elementary side, doors are relocked at 4 p.m.
East-side doors that were locked after classes were dismissed for the day recently created headaches for parents dropping off students for basketball practice. school board member Sarah Swinton said that left many parents and athletes in parked cars outside, waiting for doors to open.
“I realize what happened in Connecticut, but it’s frustrating all of a sudden to go to total lockdown and you can’t get your kid or drop your kid off,” Swinton told the board Feb. 6.
Principal Cheryl Stickler responded that a schedule was being worked out for the doors to be open and locked at appropriate times. “I know we’re only Haines, but things happen everywhere, in every town, and we don’t want to be a part of that.”
Superintendent Byer told the board that one of the next things on his agenda was electronic controls on doors that would lock and unlock on a timer.
Byer said the school may not be able to stop a potential assailant from entering the school’s main entrance during the day, so the focus is on recognizing potential problems early, perhaps slowing down an assailant, and quickly announcing a lockdown through the school’s public address system.
Byer also said the district is replacing 14 security cameras at the school with 20 new ones that provide better views and can be accessed more readily than through the existing surveillance system. Cameras currently are trained on school corridors and entrances, not in classrooms or supervised areas, he said.
Additional cameras will go into “dead spots” not already seen by cameras, such as the corridor leading to the high school locker rooms, Byer said. He said the public address system recently was extended to the playground so students and staff at recess could be warned of an emergency inside.