The Central Bucks School Board on Tuesday night approved the installation of new buzz-in security systems at all the district's schools.
The vote was a formality. School administrators began the process while schools were closed for the holidays, installing a test system at Linden Elementary School in Doylestown Borough.
Since then, the systems have been installed at six or seven of the district's 23 schools, Superintendent Dr. Rodney Green said Tuesday night. The remaining elementary and middle schools are expected to be finished by the end of next week, he said.
The seven school board members present at Tuesday's meeting voted unanimously in favor of the project.
"I was thrilled about the buzzer system," said Tyler Tomlinson, who represents most of Doylestown Township. "I don’t think we can be too secure. More is better than less and sooner is better than later."
Consisting of a new latching mechanism, along with an intercom and a doorbell, the buzzer system will cost about $500 for each school, Green said, for a total of about $11,500.
Under the new system, parents and other visitors will be asked to show identification and state their reason for being at the school, Green said. Anyone who doesn't have ID or a valid reason to enter will not be allowed in, he said.
Staff training will be essential to ensuring that office personnel adhere to those guidelines, Green said.
When the door opens, visitors will step into a vestibule that opens into the school office, rather than the school itself. Those vestibules were installed a few years ago.
Still, a buzzer system won't stop an armed intruder from blasting his way in, as a gunman is believed to have done on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza went on to kill 20 first-graders and six educators before killing himself.
Central Bucks officials acknowledged that the buzzer system won't stop all threats but said it still is worth adopting.
"It's another layer of security," Green said. "This was something we could do fairly inexpensively that would enhance" the district's other security procedures.
The three Central Bucks high schools will be getting their own buzz-in systems, too, but those plans needed more time to complete.
School offices also will be equipped with panic buttons that will automatically call 911 to report an emergency without needing to use the phone. Those are expected to be installed after the buzz-in systems are complete.
School principals are in the process of reviewing their building's security procedures, Green said. A district-level team will meet in a couple weeks to review those findings, he said.
School Board president Stephen Corr said the new approach is about more than just hardware. It signals a change in the district's overall policy on school visits.
"Before, it was an open-door policy, and that’s the balancing act that we play," Corr said. "How do we keep it as a community school and protect the children at the same time?"