SIOUX CITY | Last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., has prompted the Sioux City school district to re-evaluate the design of new and existing buildings.
School board member Doug Batcheller said he asked Superintendent Paul Gausman on Wednesday to look into ways to better secure glass doors, potentially through the use of bullet-resistant panels.
A man armed with a semi-automatic rifle managed to bypass a Newtown elementary school’s security procedures by shooting out the glass portion of a door on Dec. 14. Many Sioux City schools have similarly designed entryways.
“I’m not certain anyone can protect themselves totally, but are we doing what we’re capable of?” Batcheller asked of existing safety procedures. “My response is, we must ask the tough questions.”
The district already has locks and a buzzer system for its doors, forcing people to check in with the office in order to get inside a building. The district also fences off its free-standing portable classrooms from the public and has locks for those doors too.
Portable classrooms, which are similar to a double-wide trailer home, are not connected to the main building and are often used at older schools struggling to find enough space for students.
Board member John Meyers said adding bullet-resistant glass could potentially be cost-prohibitive if it’s incorporated into future construction projects or installed in existing buildings. The district could also consider replacing all the windows on the first floor of existing buildings.
Although the district is waiting for official estimates, Meyers said he would not be surprised if bullet-resistant glass added a couple of million dollars to the cost of building a new school.
That money might be better spent on mental health programs for students and the general public since that seems to be an underlying issue in many mass shooting incidents, Meyers added.
“This is not the time to reduce the aid to mental health,” he said, referring to news that Woodbury County will lose $650,665 for mental health programs. “The idea of cutting back on mental health – especially at this time – it’s just poor timing.”
Gausman said there is no timeline for when he will return to board members with information.
No recommendations or decision have been made, and the issue has not been brought before the full school board or to any committees.