North Canton City School officials want to ramp up safety and security in and around the buildings, especially in light of the , that left 27 people dead.
But some things on their wish list are going to take some time — and a lot of money.
School administration, along with community members and North Canton police and fire officials, met Tuesday night inside Hoover Hall and hashed out what safety upgrades might be possible in the near future, and what will have to wait.
The district already has the ball rolling on one security measure — security vestibules that would provide controlled access into the buildings.
"As part of the security vestibules that we're building, and the couple security vestibules that we have, we're taking a look at reinforced glass for those areas," Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said. "They're bulletproof in that the bullet will go through the door, but the glass doesn't shatter; it holds together."
One person in the audience wanted to know if school officials planned to make the classroom doors bulletproof, and Hartenstein said there were no plans to do that.
Audience members' questions were answered throughout the two-hour meeting. Many wrote their questions and concerns down ahead of time, and those questions were answered by Hartenstein and Police Chief Stephan Wilder, one after the other. Some asked their questions throughout the session.
Concerns included: safety inside the school as well as on the buses and at the bus stops; preventing an intruder from entering the school, especially through a glass side door; how to more effectively screen visitors coming into the school buildings; and whether metal detectors might be helpful in stopping crime.
METAL DETECTORS, TAKING VISITORS' IDs
Hartenstein said metal detectors are a possibility, but for schools the size of Hoover High, it could be difficult.
"My concern is, with 1,610 kids in the high school, in 10 minutes, how would we process them through?" he asked.
At the suggestion of a community member, Hartenstein said he'll consider whether visitors to the schools should be required to have an appointment. It's decided that all visitors to the schools must present a photo ID.
"Even if we know you, we're going to ask for a photo ID, and we're going to place that in a file," Hartenstein said.
If they collect an ID from a new visitor, they can run the person's name through a computer system to find out more about the person and make sure the person's name corresponds with that on the identification card.
PANIC BUTTONS VS. DIGITAL RADIO SYSTEM
An audience member asked about whether panic buttons would be effective in the classrooms.
Hartenstein said the district would rather pursue a digital radio system than panic buttons because communication with panic buttons is one-way (from the classroom to the office). By pushing the button, a teacher can alert administration that something is wrong, but there's no way to communicate what the problem is.
Someone with a radio could communicate not only with others in the school, but with the police department, Hartenstein said.
"It's almost an instantaneous 911."
One audience member asked what the best protocol for a lockdown is — getting under desks, or huddling together in a corner?
Wilder and Police Detective Randy Manse shared information on the response tactic A.L.I.C.E. (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Escape).
"What A.L.I.C.E. does is give you options," Manse said. "You don't use the whole system if you don't need to."
The system involves alerting police, placing the school under lockdown, barricading the students in the classrooms and evacuating the areas where they know the intruder is not.
Hartenstein said teachers will attend an A.L.I.C.E. training in Massillon in February, and students will be able to learn about the program in schools once teachers are trained.
POLICE PRESENCE AT THE SCHOOLS
Some audience members wanted to see armed officers in each school building, while others wanted officers to park their cars outside the buildings during pick-up and drop-off times.
Hartenstein said having a full-time law enforcement officer in each school could be a good idea.
"If that's something that the community thinks is an issue, we need to probably bring that back to the voters and ask for some money," Hartenstein said. "That's one reason we're having this meeting; if that's what the general consensus is, then we'll have to take a look at it."
It might even help to have a retired officer or military personnel member in the schools, he said.
North Canton City School District officials are considering a permanent improvement levy to update buildings — including security features — and improve the district's aging buses.
“The chief and I will distill this down into what the major threads are from this meeting,” Hartenstein said.
From there, the district will form focus groups, then send out a community survey.
“From that it will really help us tune where we need to go,” Hartenstein said.
Wilder said there's no way to totally eliminate such dangers as an intruder entering a North Canton City School building.
"Can you ever really prevent something like this from happening? Probably not," Wilder said. "But we just want to give some sense of assurance that we're cognizant of what's going on."