The Greencastle-Antrim School Board approved a contract for more than $350,000 with McClure Co. to improve the security of school entrances at Thursday night's meeting.
Looking at security upgrades in the district predates last month's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and discussion last week included philosophical as well as practical matters.
Mark Gallick of McClure Co., the company that has overseen district projects for a number of years, said the idea is to control the flow of the general public into school buildings, requiring them to have interaction with the staff before being buzzed into a secure area outside an office.
Some measures already exist, but this is a "more robust, rigid and strong system," Gallick said. It adds "a layer where they have to be allowed into the space."
Minimal work, with a price tag of $7,220, is needed at the high school to allow school staff to control access to the building.
The primary ($103,793), elementary ($104,534) and middle school ($135,421) all will see similar entrance improvements:Remove the existing entrance enclosure. New steel structure with glass for secure enclosure. New steel ceiling with glass over the steel enclosure. New system for the office staff to control access into the school. New HVAC components to temper the enclosure. Reconfigure lighting to accommodate the new secure entrance.
In addition, a new sliding window will be installed at the middle school.
The upgrades were approved on a 5-1-1 vote, with Mike Still, James Winslow, Pat Fridgen, Scott Hart and Eric Holtzman voting yes; Paul Politis voting no; Shannon Yates abstaining because he is employed by a McClure subcontractor; and Tracy Baer and Linda Farley absent.
The upgrades total $350,968 and the money will come from the district's $1.4 million capital reserve fund.
A timeline for the work has not been set, but Jolinda "JC" Wilson, chief financial officer, said it may be more convenient to do it this summer when school is not in session.
Politis said he thinks the move is a "feel good thing" and there are many other doors to the buildings with people going in and out all day long.
"I don't think locking up everything is the answer," he said.
Fridgen added that the biggest threat is a teen walking in one of the open doors with guns in a backpack.
No one knows what stops someone, but the board has to do what makes sense, according to Holtzman, who also said he is concerned a sensitive issue like school security must be talked about in public and is not a legal executive session matter.
"You can't fix human nature, but this is the best first step," Hart said.
"This buys us time if someone is trying to get through and time gets us security," Winslow said.
Earlier in the meeting during the public comment period, resident Percy Rock said what is not being talked about when it comes to school safety and gun rights is "how an adorable first-grader turns into a blood-thirsty killer by high school."
He blamed this on the systematic destruction of the American family and the removal of prayer and Bible studies from the classroom.
"We're essentially raising a godless nation," Rock said.
In support of teachers
Also during the public comment period, Cherie Weaver was the latest person to address the board during the impasse in teacher contract talks.
She has three children in the district, the oldest in eighth grade, and spoke in support of the teachers. She explained her plans for Catholic school were opposed by her husband's grandfather, a local businessman, who was adamant the children attend public school and she has never seen any reason to send them anywhere else.
"Our teachers are the best asset we have, as parents, we really believe in the teachers," Weaver said.
The 181 members of the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association are working under the terms of a contract that expired Aug. 31, 2017. In December, the teachers voted to accept the terms of a fact-finder's report, which the school board has rejected and the teachers are scheduled to go on strike April 4 if a settlement is not reached.