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Schools highlight safety plans after Connecticut shootings

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By Tracy Harris

As the country grapples with the mass shooting of 26 people in a Connecticut elementary school last week, local officials hosted several safety forums to address parent concerns.

Forums were held across the county Monday and Tuesday, offering parents and residents an opportunity to learn about safety procedures and ask questions.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Orman said security systems and emergency procedures are different for each school, but that all schools regularly conduct drills to make sure students and teachers are prepared.

Orman said law enforcement officers from all three Oldham agencies assist in developing safety plans.

“It’s a balance between simplicity and effectiveness,” said Oldham County Police Maj. Tim Wakefield.

Schools no longer use code words for emergencies because teachers can forget what they mean in a panic — and substitutes or volunteers might not know the codes at all.

The district employs three school resource officers — trained police officers who patrol a portion of the district.

The SROs rotate through every school on a varying basis, ensuring there is a frequent but random police presence. 

Those officers also ensure someone will respond within minutes of an emergency, shortening response times.

Police officers, administrators and parents all agree they’d like to have an officer in every school — but it is simply cost-prohibitive.

It would cost nearly $1 million to fund SROs for each of the district’s 10 schools.

Orman thanked parents for drawing attention to school-specific concerns — most of the district’s schools have an entry buzzer and an air-lock system that requires visitors to enter through the office before gaining access to the building.

However, parents say some schools are lax in security procedures.

“There are just two sweet little old ladies (at the front desk) between you and the school,” said a parent Monday night at Oldham County High School.”

Wakefield said SROs will be watching for security issues, such as doors being propped open or teachers and visitors lacking visible identification.

But even with security measures in place, Wakefield said schools aren’t necessarily designed for safety — atriums, windows and other features encourage learning but are vulnerable to forced entry.

“There’s no way we can prevent (a situation like the one in Connecticut) from ever happening,” Wakefield said. “If someone is intent on getting in, they’ll get in.”

Orman told parents that’s a fundamental question.

“We choose to build schools, not fortresses,” he said.

Meetings were held Monday and Tuesday at all three high schools and at East Oldham Middle. Parents and residents are encouraged to email questions and concerns to their school principals or to Orman directly. 

Orman can be reached at dan.orman@oldham.kyschools.us or 241-3500.