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December 14, 2013

School security increased in wake of shootings

TRAVERSE CITY — Gone are the days when parents could walk into schools and head directly to their children’s classrooms.

One year ago today a man burst into an elementary school in the sleepy town of Newtown, Conn., and sprayed gunfire at students, teachers and administrators. Twenty children and six adults died in the shooting spree, a horrific incident that created a universal sense of fear that school children need to be better protected.

Now, about 900 miles away, schools in the Grand Traverse region adopted new security measures that transformed their entrances -- and attitudes.

Many local schools now require visitors to use intercoms, and school officials lock more doors and have more security cameras at entrances. Many schools tried to align their main offices with front entrances so visitors are immediately visible. Such is the case in Suttons Bay Elementary School, where the main office was moved from the second to the first floor.

“The feeling in the school is that we need to reassure our parents that we’re doing all we can to provide a safe environment,” said Michael Murray, Suttons Bay Schools superintendent.

Traverse City Area Public Schools officials have long led the way for school security in the area; now, since Sandy Hook, more small schools are revamping their security systems, said Dan Doornbos, an employee at Allen Supply, a company that reviews and installs security systems, including many at local schools.

“You’re seeing more of the outlying small schools starting to get on board with securing their building so they know everybody that’s in that building,” said Doornbos. “No longer can you just walk into a school and go to wherever you want in a school without having a conversation with some staff.”

Some schools added new security measures to their recent millage proposals. In Elk Rapids, administrators wanted to install a new camera system, and in Traverse City Area Public School’s Central High School, administrators wanted to shift cameras, install a new locking system to better cover outlying buildings, and change the front layout of the high school.

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