School shooting not lost on St. Louis Park officials

A security camera keeps an eye on St. Louis Park High School. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

A security camera keeps an eye on St. Louis Park High School. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

A sign near the St. Louis Park School District Office announces a “Safe School Zone” and increased legal penalties for drug, weapon, alcohol, tobacco and violence-related offenses. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

A sign near the St. Louis Park School District Office announces a “Safe School Zone” and increased legal penalties for drug, weapon, alcohol, tobacco and violence-related offenses. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

A sign at the St. Louis Park School District Office entrance warns visitors that the door is locked. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

A sign at the St. Louis Park School District Office entrance warns visitors that the door is locked. (Sun staff photo by Seth Rowe)

The Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut that has prompted policy debates in the nation’s capital has also had an impact in St. Louis Park.

Following the December shooting, St. Louis Park school officials have reviewed their own security plans and procedures.

St. Louis Park schools have already conducted five annual lock-down drills – a state mandate. The district also requires visitors to use an intercom system to gain admission during school hours.

As a result of the St. Louis Park review, officials decided to use health and safety funds to install more cameras. Officials are also reviewing security protocols with staff members.

“We’ve had different buildings have different numbers of cameras,” said Sara Thompson, a communications specialist with the St. Louis Park School District.

Thompson declined to discuss the exact price tag of the new cameras or their locations, but said the district had a goal of enhancing its security.

“It’s one of those situations where we were really safe and always have been,” Thompson said. “In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy and other tragedies of late, and like other school districts in Minnesota, we took another look at it and made some additional enhancements.”

She added, “We’re always looking at (security), but certainly with Sandy Hook and others the timing was right to look at it again and see what needed to be enhanced.”

While security is a concern, Thompson also said, “We always want to make sure our schools are a welcoming environment, in addition to student safety.”

Thus, training with staff members has focused on safety procedures, like lock-down drills, along with providing staff with the tools to provide a welcoming atmosphere for people in the schools, she said.

During a Jan. 14 St. Louis Park School Board meeting, Director of Businesses Services Sandy Salin said the district is also taking a look at main entrances and door placements at its schools “to make it a better situation where individuals are more drawn toward the offices.”

Salin also noted the addition of cameras.

“Since we don’t have a direct line of sight to the doors, we’re going to have cameras where they’re going to be able to see in the office who is at the doors before letting them in,” Salin said.

The district’s human resources, technology and communications staff has been working on addressing the security matter, Salin said.

An overhead projection Salin showed provided the following report relating to district building security:

• Additional measures installed for main entrances

• Front doors to remain locked during school hours

• Visitors must use main entrance and request access through intercom panels

• Intercom panels allow office staff to see who is requesting access and speak to them

• Updated protocols are being developed and training for school office staff is being provided

Boardmember Nancy Gores noted police officers are stationed at St. Louis Park High School and St. Louis Park Middle School during the school day. Police officer liaisons are also assigned to the district’s elementary schools.

“Part of that is possible because of the help we get from the city, and I want to thank the city for what they’ve done in the past and what they continue to do,” Gores said.

The St. Louis Park School District has gone beyond state-mandated drills when participating in large-scale regional drills in recent years in coordination with regional emergency personnel. A drill at St. Louis Park Middle School simulated a terroristic disaster on a school bus. A drill at the high school featured a scenario of a shooter in a parking lot. The large-scale drill included police firing nonlethal clay bullets, a response from firefighters, ambulance staff responding to students with mock injuries, school officials, media personnel and many other participants.

“If you’ve practiced, you’ll be better in the unlikely event of something happening,” Gores said.

Boardmember Julie Sweitzer said officials in many other districts are already reviewing security concerns while St. Louis Park has already taken action.

To Salin, Sweitzer said, “I want to thank you and the superintendent for the quick action we took to look at these enhancements and try and get things done quickly.”

 

Contact Seth Rowe at seth.rowe@ecm-inc.com

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