ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Anchorage School District plans to spend more than $6 million in state legislative grants on security upgrades following a safety review prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
The upgrades will include panic buttons, front doors that lock electronically, and more surveillance cameras, the Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/1anXWJ5 ) reported Monday. There were no plans for bullet-proof glass, metal detectors or arming citizen volunteers.
Anchorage district operations chief Mike Abbott said administrators were trying to balance student safety and open schools.
Principals "do not want to present the image of a fortress or a bunker for their schools," Abbott said. "But they also recognize they have the responsibility and motivation to keep students and themselves safe."
After the December 2012 Sandy Hook killings, the Anchorage district hired Gardner Cobb - a former Anchorage police captain and school security head - to lead a review of security procedures.
The review team found that Anchorage schools are some of the most secure in the nation in the ability to quickly lockdown. In addition, emergency plans are in place in every school and practiced in drill scenarios.
Officials say some of the tight security already in place followed a May 2001 incident in which a man with a history of psychiatric illness attacked children with a fillet knife as they were waiting to get in to Mountain View Elementary School. All four young boys who were slashed survived.
Reviewers found some weak spots in security, however.
For example, 31 buildings needed upgraded intercoms, several elementary schools were not designed to let office staff monitor traffic in and out the front door, and 16 elementary schools didn't have basic video surveillance equipment.
The school district asked state lawmakers for $8.5 million fo r security upgrades. The district received $6.4 million.
Among the projects planned with the money are panic buttons that would trigger an alarm directly to police dispatchers. Abbott said they would be the first alarms in the city that are hard-wired directly to police.
Elementary schools also will get front doors that can be locked remotely.
The work is expected to begin this fall, with completion expected by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.
Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com