When students return to Kickemuit Middle School after Christmas break this year, they’ll have to walk through an additional set of doors to get to class.
Following a contentious discussion, Bristol Warren school committee members recently approved installing security doors at the middle school and at Guiteras Elementary School. While most members agreed that the doors would be of use at the elementary school, it’s their installation at Kickemuit that had some concerned.
These are the only two schools in the district without a second set of security doors.
“I don’t feel that the wall is necessary,” said Tara Thibideau, a parent and co-president of the Kickemuit parent’s group. “I think it provides a false sense of security.”
The doors at Kickemuit would wall off the hallway next to the auditorium, providing the community with access to the auditorium during public events. It would create a vestibule directing traffic to the office, without opening up the school to wandering visitors.
“There are all sorts of people coming into the school, it could be anybody,” said Karen Lynch, school committee member. “We want them to go to the office, and not just down the hall into the school. We’re not talking just about that awful incident that God forbid never happens here. It’s also for people who come in on a regular basis, to make sure they go into the office and not into the regular school building.”
But spending about $65,000 on the doors doesn’t seem like a good idea to Ms. Thibideau.
“I don’t think l that a wall is going to protect my children any more than what is there now,” she said. “That’s money the district could be using in other ways.”
The installation of the doors is a result of a safety audit the district conducted on its schools in conjunction with the Bristol and Warren police departments in January. School officials and police officers, as well as the school buildings’ official, inspected every building, highlighting where each could improve to enhance safety.
“There is not perfect way to do anything,” said Melinda Thies, school superintendent. “The idea was to provide a little more security for children and staff who are there during the day, to protect not only against that terrorist of some sort. It will provide another 15 or 10 seconds, additional time to allow for backup to arrive.”
Currently, the entry doors to all schools are locked during the day, and required a buzz-intercom system for a person to gain access. There are also security cameras and an increased police presence as well. Doors to the classrooms at Kickemuit are also kept locked during the day, and only those with a key can gain access.