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City of Poughkeepsie considers new school safety measures

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Albany/HV: City of Poughkeepsie considers new school safety measures
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School security has been a hot-button issue for parents in the wake of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Wednesday night, parents met with school leaders in Poughkeepsie, to talk about what the district is doing to keep their kids safe. John Wagner reports.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- "Sandy Hook really took us to a whole nother level and said we really need to do something, and we need to do it now," said Ralph Coates, president of the Poughkeepsie city school board.

In early December, Poughkeepsie city schools had begun slowly crafting new security measures. But in the wake of Newtown, a simple change was made and many more are coming.

"Right away we made sure all of our building doors are locked now at all times," said Coates.

Before, front doors were left unlocked and visitors could walk up to security desks.

"I have nightmares," said Yousra Khan, a Krieger Elementary parent concerned about doors that don't lock and school volunteers who have never been fingerprinted. "I don't know why as parents we didn't think about this before."

To calm nerves, an emergency safety committee has left all options on the table--everything from metal detectors to tinted first floor windows to changing outdated locks so teachers can lock down classrooms from the inside and adding off-duty cops and more security staff.

"Sometimes fights go on for a real long time," said Poughkeepsie high school student Myles Blocker. "Sometimes I can walk through the hallway and see no yellow shirts. I think they need more security guards."

"More can be done in the sense of visitors can be metal detected at the doors," said Daniel Guarnaccia, who says he feels safe and that not all that much more can be done to protect from tragedies.

Security is a lot more beefed up at the middle and high schools than at the elementary level. The secondary schools have security cameras, doors that can be buzzed in, security staff, and two layers of locked front doors. Many say, in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, they want those features copied at the elementary schools.

"It can save lives. It can give five minutes, it could give ten minutes, or it could stop the person," said Victoria Mylod, a parent at Krieger Elementary.

In the coming weeks students, staff, and visitors may see their access limited. Front doors may become their only entrance and exit. ID badges must be shown. The procedures already on the books will get extra attention.

"We need to dot our I's and cross our T's and it has to be done and it has to begin somewhere," said Mylod who says she doesn't feel her child is safe.

"Funds and stuff are tight right now but you can't put a cost on this and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure our schools are safe," said school board president Coates.

Where security can be tightened at little or no cost, policies could change in a matter of days or weeks. Bigger ticket items will get priced and debated in the coming months.

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