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School Superintendents: Majority of NY schools "safer" since Sandy Hook

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Albany/HV: School Superintendents: Majority of NY schools "safer" since Sandy Hook
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Sixty percent of participating Superintendents rate their districts "more safe," while 40 percent say "just as safe" as last year. YNN's Geoff Redick reports.

NEW YORK STATE -- In a statewide poll conducted nearly a year after the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a majority of New York State school Superintendents report their schools are "more safe" than they were just one year ago.

The poll was administered by the New York State School Boards Association, in conjunction with the one-year anniversary of the massacre.

"About 60 percent of them said, 'We believe our schools are safer today, than they were a year ago,'" said the Association's Executive Director Timothy Kremer on Tuesday. Kremer is heartened by the results of this latest study, even though the data is a simple collection of various superintendents' personal opinions.

"It's kind of a value judgment," Kremer said. "It's hard to say how you measure safety specifically."

Many superintendents in the study cited recent improvements like emergency procedure updates, security cameras, and in some places, the introduction of armed school resource officers. Just one superintendent in the state listed their school as "less safe" than a year ago, though because the poll was anonymous, it's impossible to know which superintendent reported that.

In the City of Troy, a security solutions company is promoting a new strategy that's caught on in some districts: making physical changes to school building layouts, to slow potential attackers.

"The best practice that we promote is to have a secure vestibule at the main entrance," explained Gene Browning, an Associate Architect with Mosaic Associates. "Some of the older buildings main entrances lead right into the hallways or the lobby. We're working with districts now to add a secure vestibule or to improve the lobby they have."

In a Mosaic-designed project at an elementary school in Burnt Hills, N.Y., a main school lobby that used to allow free access to two major hallways, was fitted with electronic doors.

"Now a visitor comes in, they approach the office window and hand-in their driver's license and are visually screened," said Browning, diagramming an example on a school blueprint. "Then if they're allowed to proceed into the rest of the building, the office will unlock those electronic doors."

With all other school entrances locked, any potential threat can theoretically be quarantined in the lobby long enough to call for help and lock-down the building.

Browning understands people may be skeptical of his opinions, since his business stands to profit from such projects. But he maintains that physical building alterations can be a key component to safety.

"If your security policy is 'not to have a policy,' that's not a sound policy," said Browning. "If your policy is 'make my building secure,' then the facilities needs will follow, and the technologies will follow."

The NYSSBA is planning lobbying efforts in Albany next year, in an effort to convince state lawmakers to add funding to the budget and earmark it for school security upgrades.

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