The Vancouver School Board will consider this spring whether more school doors should be locked for safety.
NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo forwarded a motion on notice Monday night to have the board examine restricting entrance to a school’s main doors but allowing egress elsewhere, and to provide school staff with direct communication links, such as panic buttons, to emergency services.
Vision Vancouver trustee Mike Lombardi amended their motion, requesting that a safety audit already underway in collaboration with Vancouver police go to the board’s management coordinating committee in the spring. Vision school board chair Patti Bacchus said the audit will consider access and emergency communications and allow parents, principals, teachers and school staff a say.
The original motion was partially prompted by the shootings at an American elementary school in Connecticut in December and a lockdown at an East Side elementary school in the same month because of an incident nearby.
Denike said an “obviously mentally ill man” was found in a hallway at one of the schools he liaises with. It wasn’t clear whether the man intended to do anything but Denike said the man was barred from the school’s vicinity.
Denike said he’s received mixed views from school staff on restricting entrances. He noted one kindergarten teacher eyes the doorway next to her downtown inner city classroom.
“She’s very quick to monitor and it works out quite well, but is that really her responsibility?” he said.
Bacchus said principals and other school staff know how safe their schools are. “You talk to a school custodian, they’re going to tell you if there are vulnerable areas they’re concerned about,” she said.
Bacchus said some argue limiting entrance to a school could pose a risk to those seeking safety inside and could inhibit emergency responders from gaining access.
“We have to be cautious before we leap into a reactionary type of mode that oh my goodness, let’s lock everything up, after really 100 years of not doing so,” Bacchus said. “We know in Sandy Hook [Connecticut] that was a locked school with a buzz-in system and, I believe, a security guard.”
NPA trustees voted against what Denike denounced as a technical audit.