Mandate needed to make our schools safe

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For most of America, the end of the 2017-18 school year can’t get here soon enough.

The calendar might provide the only safety our nation’s children will get.

In the summer months that follow, leisure should be the last thing on many minds. Figuring out how to make our school buildings safe should keep school officials and other conscientious citizens awake well into the warm nights.

Believing that these are challenges best solved at the local level, we applaud Lakeland School District for doing something. Lakeland officials are determined to hire and place armed guards at their 11 schools. It might not be the ultimate solution, and it won’t be done overnight because of cost, but at least they’re not sitting back and waiting for somebody else to come up with something.

For ideas, The Press tapped a building expert near and dear to us, John Barlow. Barlow has for several decades been the point man for countless construction projects under The Hagadone Corp. umbrella, which includes some 16 newspapers, a bunch of restaurants, The Coeur d’Alene Resort and the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, and more. Barlow notes that America’s debate over guns and mental health goes on and on. Meantime, so does the killing.

Barlow recommends a small, expert local task force tackle the topic. Participants would focus on keeping guns out of the schools, not “how does this happen?”

For fodder, here are some suggestions:

• Control school access. Limit ingress to one or two entryways with metal detection scanners supervised by Resource Officers. Any metal is investigated at the entry. All other doors modified with hardware for emergency exit only. Exit doors would all be monitored with security cameras at a central location.

• Stagger schedules. Because one entry will create bottlenecks, set different schedules. For example, freshmen arrive by 7:30 a.m., sophomores by 7:45, juniors by 8 and seniors by 8:15. Students wait in study hall until class starts. Dismissal could be similarly stepped.

• Use technology better. To control who enters and exits, register all students with a facial recognition system, which would be part of the entry screening. Non-authorized visitors must be OK’d by Resource Officer.

Suggestions like these would not be cheap and, in the case of staggered schedules, might prove at times cumbersome. But this is a good starting point for community discussion and creation of a dynamic local task force.

The potential cost of doing nothing and hoping we’re spared is far, far higher than any conscientious person should be willing to pay.

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