Charleston, W.Va. – The executive director of the state School Building Authority said changes the SBA adopted earlier this week in policy could save lives in the future.
It was a unanimous vote Monday at the SBA meeting, according to Mark Manchin, to add new safety components when it comes to the construction of new schools.
The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. back in December got SBA members thinking about what could be done to create safer schools here in West Virginia. Manchin said first on the list was line of sight.
“Should there be an individual who pulls up [in front of the school], reaches in the trunk of his car or, for whatever reason, appears to be suspicious, we’ll have vision of that individual. [It won't be] the first time we see him when he walks up to the front door.”
Another safety component is the type of glass installed in the front doors and first floor windows of a school.
“Shatter-proof glass will assure that should an individual get to the front door, he would not have the ability to shoot out the front door glass, shatter it, reach through the door and step through,” explained Manchin.
The next precaution for new schools is a vestibule. That’s the farthest anyone will be able to go until that person is buzzed into the school.
The last safety measure is a “red button.”
“Once they press that red button, the doors will be locked down and 911 will immediately be called,” stressed Manchin.
At Newtown, it took a total of nine minutes from the time the shooter arrived in the parking lot until he committed suicide. Manchin says the key is to give school personnel time to respond to a threat and keep the individual out of the building for three to five minutes, the estimated time it would take law enforcement to arrive.
Manchin admitted adding these safety features is going to cost more money. But he doesn’t believe taxpayers will balk.
“I don’t think anyone would disagree that you can’t put a price on a child’s life.”
At this point, Manchin said they’re not sure how much it will cost to implement the new safety measures. Work on several new construction schools gets underway this summer. He believes by the fall, the SBA will have a good idea of how much the safety improvements will add to the budget. Manchin said they’ll adjust accordingly.
As for existing schools, at this point, Manchin said retrofitting them is just not possible. But schools who do undergo renovations, can ask the SBA for money to install those safety measures.
Manchin said once the new safety measures are in place, West Virginia will have some of the safest schools in the country.