CPS Superintendent Responds to Parents' Security Concerns

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher responded to parents concerns on Tuesday. This after the district sent out a letter to parents listing safety measures it hopes to implement by the end of the school year. The district discussed the ideas at its last board meeting, which happened prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy. 

Some of those measures include new electronic locks, a buzzing system, video intercoms and more security cameras. 

Belcher said he hopes the elementary schools see the new buzzing system by the end of the school year. 

"The secretary has to buzz that individual in. That's a barrier. That's not a fail-safe model, but it gives us more control," Belcher said.

The district plans to take a different approach at the middle and high schools.  

"There's so much in and out access of those buildings so we want to control that access, but not necessarily make everyone use a monitor," he said.

The district already has the money and plan in place to pay for the additional security, thanks to a bond passed by voters. It's part of the district's ten-year plan that includes the construction of Battle High School. 

"We were already on high alert because we are living in a microcausum of any community in the United States," Belcher said.
 
Until those security upgrades are made, Belcher said the school system will rely on their current intruder training. 

"Our best barrier still for really bizarre behavior is to be attuned to who's in your building, how they're behaving and tell an adult. And what I'd tell our parents, that's the best trait we have in CPS," he said.
 
Outside trailers pose another, unique security concern. 

"There are multiple times a day that we have large number of kids outside, but I don't want to over react," Belcher said. "But in the best case scenario we would prefer to have kids inside."

Belcher said trailer doors should always be locked, and as part of the ten-year plan, trailers will start to disappear from school yards. 

"We've got a plan that shows in about six years a really large number of those trailers are out of the district and with good quality replacement space indoors."

Belcher said he hopes the community knows student safety is the number one priority of administrators. 

"We don't want to have knee-jerk reactions, but we certainly want to use this terrible event as a responsibility on our part to review, review, review because we know our most important job is to keep our kids safe first."

Belcher also wants parents to know elementary school teachers will not discuss the Sandy Hook shooting with students, leaving that decision up to parents. However, if children request to talk about it, counselors are prepared to discuss the incident with them.

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