Security on the minds of Pittsburgh-area school districts

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Security was predictably at the fore in Western Pennsylvania school districts today in the wake of the mass shootings Friday in Newtown, Conn.

Some districts added police patrols or convened meetings of safety officers to review emergency procedures, while others said they were not changing what were already meticulous procedures for ensuring the well-being of students.

Monroeville police stepped up patrols around Gateway School District facilities and school administrators will meet with police this afternoon to review emergency plans, district spokeswoman Cara Zanella said.

"Our crisis plans are up to date," she said. "We try to stay on top of things as best as we can."

Like most districts, Gateway keeps all doors locked at all times and visitors must press a buzzer to gain admittance. Surveillance cameras are in place at entrances.

Butler Area School District had at least one armed school police officer in each of its 14 buildings today -- 11 elementary schools and three secondary buildings, Superintendent Michael Strutt said.

The school board has been discussing arming the officers, all of whom are retired state troopers, and voted 8-1 last week to implement that change. After Friday's shootings, the district went to court over the weekend and obtained an order from Butler County President Judge Thomas Doerr giving permission to arm the officers immediately, Mr. Strutt said.

Some of the officers went to a shooting range Sunday to be recertified in firearms by the county sheriff's office.

Mr. Strutt said he will meet in executive session with school board members this evening to review other security procedures. He said the presence of armed officers "will be daily from now on."

The neighboring South Butler School District also got court approval to arm two of its three security officers, also former state troopers.

In Keystone Oaks School District, "We meet pretty regularly to talk about security procedures," spokesman James Cromie said. "We go through every type of emergency we can fathom."

Most schools significantly increased security and tightened access to buildings after a mass killing at Columbine High School near Denver in 1999, he noted. "Unfortunately, this (Connecticut) isn't the first one."

Teachers in the Carlynton School District met this morning to go over emergency procedures but no significant changes were made to the security measures already in place, including entrances that are always locked, spokeswoman Michale Herrmann said.

In Bethel Park, Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose sent emails to principals reminding them to be sure that all security procedures were followed but other than that, it was business as usual today, spokeswoman Vicki Flotta said. All doors are locked and visitors must be buzzed in at the main entrances of buildings, she said.

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Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. First Published December 17, 2012 3:30 PM


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