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School security scrutinized

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Franklin plans to add buzzers and intercoms to school entrances, making the district the latest in the county to better secure its buildings after the shootings in Connecticut last month.

The school district plans to add the devices to the entrances of all five elementary schools this school year and to the three other schools by the end of the summer.

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., administrators from all of Johnson County’s school districts reviewed their security procedures and building safety.

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools added buzzers to school entrances last month. Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove schools announced plans to add buzzers and possibly cameras to school entrances.

The added equipment in Franklin would give school officials control over who enters the building during the day, director of operations Bill Doty said. He is collecting cost estimates and figuring out how the upgrades will be paid for, but he said he wants to have the buzzers installed in elementary schools by the end of the school year.

Because Custer Baker Intermediate School, Franklin Community Middle School and Franklin Community High School are larger and have multiple entrances, school officials need to decide how many buzzers and intercoms they need. Doty said it is hoped the equipment can be installed by the end of the summer.

Long term, officials want to purchase cameras and hire security officers for buildings. Doty wants to look at renovating the older school buildings so that anyone entering any building has to pass through the main office first.

The question now is to how to pay for the projects.

The cost of the elementary school buzzers likely will be $30,000 to $40,000, while those for the other three schools will cost about $50,000.

The money will come from a fund the school district uses for building and technology upgrades, which is cash the district has been slow to spend because property tax caps limit the amount of money in those funds.

Franklin now will have to decide what building or technology upgrades to put off in order to afford the buzzers, Doty said.

Before any of the long-term security upgrades could be done, school officials would have to decide which are priorities and how to pay for them and which likely will require borrowing money, Doty said.

“We know it’s something we want to do. (Now) where do we find the funding?” he said.

Franklin worked with local police departments to conduct a security assessment in 2011, which showed the school district needed to add security at the front entrances, in part because not all the buildings required visitors to enter through the front office.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook, buying the buzzers became a priority, Doty said.

“It brought it obviously to the forefront, but quite honestly it’s been on our radar,” he said.

After the Newtown shooting, officers from the Franklin Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office also started spending more time at district schools.

The officers aren’t stationed at buildings but want to show both students and residents that they care about protecting the schools.

Doty said he eventually wants to make officers a permanent fixture in the schools, but until then he wants officers to continue to visit the buildings.

Anytime an officer has paperwork to complete or is looking for a place to have lunch, they’re welcome at Franklin’s buildings, Doty said.

Having the officers at the schools helps the students feel safe and also deters anyone who shouldn’t be at a school from coming in, he added.

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