Birmingham Schools Will Start Locking Front Doors During the Day
As part of a short-term plan to beef up security throughout the school district, locked front doors at Birmingham school buildings will soon be manned by security personnel.
As part of a district-wide review of school safety and security policies, Birmingham Public Schools will soon start locking the front doors of all school buildings during the day and hire security guards to regulate visitors.
Superintendent Daniel Nerad made the announcement at the Tuesday meeting of the Birmingham Board of Education.
"This is done in the memory of the victims of Sandy Hook," Nerad said, adding, "We should do as much as we reasonably can to ensure there is enough safety (at our schools)."
The decision was made as part of a month-long review of security policies at Birmingham Public Schools, sparked by the shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school in mid-December.
Immediately after the shooting, Nerad announced that the district would begin enforcing several security measures already in place — including locking all exteriors doors with the exception of a school's front entrance, which typically remains unlocked during the day.
That rule will now change. Though Nerad said he and other district officials haven't finished their review, they wanted to make a change in the interim to set minds at ease and beef up security where they can.
During the next few weeks, Nerad said school buildings will begin locking their front doors during the day. That door will then be manned by unarmed security personnel, who will help visitors enter the building during school hours.
The recommendation isn't new. In December, when Nerad announced his intent to review Birmingham's safety procedures, a parent asked why front doors remain unlocked at the schools.
"I've had great communication with my superintendent and my principal," she said. "But I am still having trouble understanding why we can not lock the front door at this point ... A lot of parents are unhappy with how things have gone forward."
According to Deputy Superintendent for Educational Services Paul DeAngelis, several parents stepped up in the wake of the Newtown shooting, offering to man the front door of their child's school. Hiring a security company to do the work, DeAngelis said, ensures that professionals are there on a consistent basis.
However, Nerad stressed that this was only an interim plan. Nerad will return to the school board on Feb. 5 with a complete safety report as well as additional recommendations to further secure buildings and keep students safe. So far, these preliminary plans include installing new security systems at all schools.
Birmingham Schools spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson said Wednesday that many of the final details of this interim plan haven't been hammered out yet, including how many security personnel will be stationed at each building, their hours or any new rules for visitors. She said the district would be communicating with parents once more details are known.
Nerad said school officials have been working closely during this review process with several local cities and has, in fact, a meeting scheduled soon with police representatives from the cities where Birmingham students live.
In addition, Nerad said 18 Birmingham teachers and administrators are signed up to take a training session with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office on how to react in an active shooter situation. The district will also be scheduling another round of lockdown drills at various schools during the last week in January.
Nerad said locking the front doors could be an inconvenience to parents at first, but he hopes the plan is a balance between safety and welcoming visitors at the same time.
"There will be some inconvenience in this," he said. "It will result in traffic pattern changes, but that's a sacrifice we should be making."
This isn't the first time school security has been a hot topic at the Birmingham Board of Education. In 2011, a divided school board voted 4-3 to install 65 additional security cameras at both Seaholm and Groves high schools.
What do you think of the plan to lock the front doors of school buildings during the day? Will it improve security? Will it be an inconvenience?