By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
BERKELEY -- In an attempt to prevent the next school shooting from happening here, the Berkeley school district will spend about $2 million on "armed intruder" training and security devices to prevent or reduce deaths in the event someone comes on campus with a gun.
The school board last year hired two security consultants at a cost of $70,000 to look at all 20 schools following the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"The incident at Sandy Hook has made us all aware of the need to be prepared at all our schools," Superintendent Donald Evans said at Wednesday's meeting.
The board voted 2-1 with two members absent to spend money on armed intruder training, the purchase of public address systems and classroom door locks for all the schools.
The district also plans to install live video cameras in all the schools so that someone can monitor them and use a public address system to warn students and teachers in the event of a shooting.
"We don't feel installing cameras is the answer to student safety," said Paula Phillips, president of the Council of Classified Employees. "We don't want them to be used as a gotcha tool, an evaluation tool or a discipline tool."
Board member Julie Sinai said she wants to make sure the cameras don't invade privacy.
"Cameras are somewhat controversial, and I don't want to adopt this without any knowledge of the community that we are having this conversation," Sinai said. "But I support the idea of using cameras to deal with an armed intruder."
In its assessment of Berkeley school security, Dimensions Unlimited said principals at every school told them campus public address systems, which could be used to warn teachers and students, are currently "nonexistent, not operating or deficient in some way. Each site also identified problems with communicating with the district office in emergencies and on a day-to-day basis by radio or telephone."
Edu-Safe Associates found that although each school has a well-thought-out, written emergency plan, "staff and faculty were unfamiliar with much of the information contained in the safety plans."
Susan Craig, director of student services, said classroom door locks will be phased in at all schools over several years. She said the consultants view live video cameras, combined with a public address system to warn of a shooter on campus, as having a higher degree of security than do classroom door locks.
"From our understanding of the concern, having a functioning camera system is a better response," said Lew Jones, director of facilities.
The consultants hired by the school district also recommended having a Berkeley police officer stationed at every school. Doing so would cost $200,000 a year per school and is deemed too costly, Craig said.
Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley