ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City School District is following best practices to prevent a shooter from entering its buildings, an official told the school board during its meeting Tuesday night.
Atiba N. Rose Sr., director of school district operations, described security measures following the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas at the request of Superintendent La’Quetta Small.
The district has comprehensive emergency response protocols for lockdowns and other measures, Rose said. Administrators have panic buttons to communicate with the police in an emergency, including the wireless versions they carry with them.
There are security guards in every building, Rose said. At the high school, there are 25 guards and metal detectors and bag searches for anyone who enters the building.
“We’re always looking for best practices,” Rose said, describing the policies already in place to protect students.
But these measures are only effective if people don’t take shortcuts, Rose said.
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“Any school can have top-notch security measures, but it’s often human error that causes security issues, like holding doors open and overlapping (someone allowing the person behind them to d ‘come in even if she doesn’t know her),’ Rose said.
Throughout the district, there are 407 video cameras that the police department can access, he said.
Most schools in the district have secure vestibules, where visitors can be checked a second time before being allowed into the building.
Schools on Texas Avenue, Brighton Avenue and Chelsea Heights will soon be renovated to include secure vestibules, Rose said.
“We just met with a contractor on June 6 for Texas and Brighton Avenue schools,” Rose said. “Chelsea Heights has already tendered. Work will start when the children leave for the summer.”
Soon a communication system will be installed, Rose said, which will provide message boards to communicate emergency information to students on electronic boards.
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Council member John Devlin said the council had considered installing metal detectors in other schools a few years ago but had been pushed back by the public.
Devlin asked if the district should look into the matter again, as some of the worst shootings — including Uvalde — have taken place at elementary schools.
“If that’s the direction the superintendent wants to go, that’s what we’ll do,” Rose said.
Schools have even set up a drive-thru area where people can submit documents, much like they might make drive-thru deposits at a bank, said public safety coordinator Ernest Jubilee.
Jubilee is a former police chief of Atlantic City.
“People are used to it now,” Jubilee said of a policy that visitors drop items at the window or front door without entering the school.
“When people need to come in, they get a brightly colored lanyard, a card with their name on it, and their destination,” Jubilee said. “We keep a log of who’s in it.”
Jubilee said all visitor names are handled electronically, to ensure no child molesters are allowed into the building.
JOURNALIST: Michelle Brunetti