DANVILLE — The question of how safe Danville’s schools are has been in the forefront of many parents’ minds, particularly since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy just two months ago.
“I had a grandmother come and see me right after Sandy Hook,” Superintendent Mark Denman said. “Providing the safest environment for the children is our No. 1 priority.”
School safety has been a main concern in Danville School District 118 well before Sandy Hook, however, dating back to the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999.
“The Columbine incident taught us a lot of things and we learned a lot from it,” Ron Henton, director of buildings and grounds for District 118, said.
The lessons from then included securing the exterior entrances to all of the schools; installing an intercom, doorbell and camera system that requires visitors to identify themselves and wait to be buzzed in by school personnel; and adding phones in all classrooms.
“The high school was the first to have restricted access,” Denman said.
By the mid-2000s all of the district’s buildings had secured entrances with intercom, doorbell and camera systems, but Denman recalls that some parents initially were opposed to the security systems and locked entrances.
“Parents weren’t sure the intercoms, doorbells and cameras were needed,” he said.
Cameras also have been installed in the hallways and public areas of many of the district’s schools, including Danville High School; North Ridge and South View middle schools; Southwest Elementary, which was under construction at the time the cameras were being installed; and Kenneth D. Bailey Academy.
The high school alone has 55 cameras monitoring the hallways and public areas, Denman said.
Federal funding a couple of years ago allowed the school district to hire additional social workers, Denman said. Although funding has since dried up, the increased number of social workers has remained.