Woodland Elemenetary parent Chad Adams ask the Perrysburg school board about school safety during a meeting at the Commodore Building in Perrysburg.
Parents with children enrolled in Perrysburg's elementary schools expressed concern over building accessibility and student safety at the board of education meeting Monday in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn.
"What are the plans for addressing safety concerns in our school?" asked Chad Adams, whose daughter is a kindergartner at Woodland Elementary.
Thomas Hosler, superintendent of Perrysburg School District, said he, principals, and other school administrators had met with each other and with the city's police chief over the weekend to discuss that very issue.
"That's going to be a continued conversation in the next months to come," Mr. Hosler said.
He said school leaders also coordinated a communication plan to address the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary, in which a man killed himself after shooting to death 20 students and six adults at the school as well as his mother at their home.
Letters were sent to parents, and administrators crafted a message for teachers to share with students.
"We love them, we work very hard to keep them safe," Mr. Hosler said of the main point that needed to be expressed to the children.
Currently, school entry doors are locked after students are admitted in the morning and are monitored by video feed viewed by office personnel. There is bell button and a two-way intercom system at the main entrance, and staff can remotely unlock the door for a visitor.
Mr. Adams said he had been able to just walk into his daughter's school on a scheduled Career Day without any vetting and that he had "free reign" of the school once inside.
"Maybe we're pretty lax here," he said.
Board member Mark Schoenlein noted that there were a number of special events at schools during which the doors were open to visitors.
"I'm glad you brought that up," he said.
Elizabeth Lloyd, whose son is a kindergartner at Fort Meigs Elementary, teared up when addressing board members.
"I was scared to send my son to school today," she said.
Ms. Lloyd said she often volunteers at the school and that she felt the security procedures were inadequate. She said was "buzzed in" at the locked entry door with no intercom communication and asked to sign in without any question as to why she was in the school.
She suggested that all classroom doors remain locked during instruction throughout the day as an added barrier in the event a threatening person was able to gain entry to the building. She also said schools should have special alarms for intruders that would spur students and staff into the appropriate actions.
"Every second counts," she said.
Ms. Lloyd also asked that police officers patrol school parking lots more often and have an increased presence inside the schools.
"That would make me feel a lot better," she said.
Mr. Hosler said there was a "constant tension" between making schools both accessible and secure, particularly in the mornings when students were arriving.
He emphasized that, while the district would investigate ways it could improve security, the man at Sandy Hook forced his way into the building.
"We know that there are those kinds of circumstances that we cannot foresee," Mr. Hosler said.
Board members said other issues that contribute to a culture of violence must be addressed as well.
Gretchen Downs, who will be the president pro tempore for the board's next scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 14, said people needed to examine how they contributed to a culture in which mass shootings were happening.
"It's understanding the root of violence in our society," she said.
Ms. Downs said young children were overexposed to murders and other unnatural deaths through media, whether on the news or in fictional television programs. She said the school system played a role in counteracting those images.
"Our staff is committed to lessening violence, lessening bullying," she said.
Board member Walt Edinger said access to guns needed to be curbed, and he called for the city of Perrysburg to take a stand against assault weapons.
Mr. Hosler said school security policies had changed since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., but that the tragedy at Sandy Hook likely would spur changes on a national scale.
"This one is going to be that tipping point," he said.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at 419-356-8786, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK.
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