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Police Step Up School Security

Police officers plan to make more of a presence in Columbia elementary schools. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Connecticut one month ago, local schools have considered new buzz-in systems, cameras and lights, even a police sub-station at a junior high school. This, however, is the biggest change to elementary schools since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., sparked greater concern over school safety. Police have always patrolled schools in the district, but now they plan to walk inside and check with school administrators to make sure everything is alright. Crystal Lindsey’s son attends second grade at West Boulevard Elementary School. Lindsey says, “I feel good about that, I’m glad they are stepping up and actually taking precautions to stop… if anything were to happen.” Columbia Police Officer Jon Martin says police began checking on schools more often after the Newtown massacre. “We’ll go in and just talk to the school administrators… make sure there’s been no issues,” Martin says. Lindsey says, “it could happen anywhere, anytime, but with them being around more often, [another shooting] would most likely not happen, which is a good thing.” Police say that’s why they’re trying to make more of a presence, and school officials say that presence was lacking after they scaled back on staffing levels due due to budget cuts. “It’s been a challenge to have additional school resource officers in our buildings,” Michelle Baumstark said on behalf of the Columbia Public School District. “Several years ago, we used to have one in every single one of our secondary buildings.” Now local schools only have resource officers at the high school level. One officer floats between the six middle and junior high schools, and the elementary schools are left without assigned police presence. Officer Martin says the new efforts to check on administrators may help put them at ease. We do not yet know how long police will continue these efforts. The police sub-station at Jefferson Junior High is a pilot program for the school district. If that program works well, officials say they hope to reproduce it in other buildings. The police presence in elementary schools will include private schools in town as well as the public school district.

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