FHS amps up safety with security changes

Kerian McDonald, Staff Reporter

Students may have noticed security changes in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Maybe it’s that the cafeteria doors are locked during non-lunch hours, or that teachers are standing in previously unmonitored areas, or perhaps there’s an extra police officer roaming the halls.
More changes are coming as classes begin to occupy the new building, primarily in the form of technology. Over 100 brand new video surveillance cameras will be located throughout the school. The cameras will be connected to a single server that will constantly store footage and will be accessible to the school’s resource officer, Sergeant Torelli, as well as 911 dispatchers and administrators.
“Eventually I’ll have access to years of footage, all of which I’ll be able to view in my office or on my laptop,” Torelli said.
When pressed, panic buttons will automatically connect to 911 allowing for quicker response to trouble, in a new, larger school. Also, new one-way emergency exits and auto-locks on many of the school’s doors will secure what was designed to be a very open campus.
“Once the new building is completed, that will make five buildings on campus,” Torelli said. “And I can’t be everywhere at once.”
The increase in the total size of the campus remains the biggest safety concern following the adoption of the new policies. Emergency exits are still a question mark, since the new building has four stories and only three exits, all of which are on the ground floor.
“We’re still working with the engineers on that,” administrator Kraig Kelican said. “But we’ll be okay; there are three or four exits on the first floor, and there will be more when the 100/200 wing is taken down.”
The new building expands what is already a large campus, which will make security even more difficult. The best way to cover that ground would be to hire another student resource officer, but that is very expensive.
“The total cost of your average SRO is about $100,000,” Torelli said. “Multiply that by 20 schools in the county, and that’s $2 million.”
Torelli is confident that the new security system will be very effective in ensuring that the school remains a safe learning environment.
“The system is top of the line; it’s unbelievable,” Torelli said. “School is already one of the safest places you can be. Now it’s going to be even safer.”
Many students have expressed displeasure with these new policies, especially the locked doors.
“They seem to only lock the doors that inconvenience everyone,” junior Michael Oaxaca said. “It drives me crazy while trying to get to class.”
Some students argue that the safety measures are a problem and an overreaction to a tragic, but highly publicized event.
“The way to avoid being terrorized is not to act like you’ve been terrorized,” junior Brooke Cheatwood said.
However, the administration urges students to be more open about finding alternative routes around locked doors to get to class.
“The doors are old, and some don’t shut properly, so they must be secured,” Kelican said. “When the 100/200 wing is torn down, less people will need to go outside.”