Sandy Hook’s massacre changed how schools secure their campuses

TACOMA, Wash. — After the  Sandy Hook massacre, schools across the country, including districts in Western Washington, moved fast to secure their schools and their systems.

Five years ago, a gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself at the Connecticut school.

It’s a terrifying piece of history that has affected the way schools secure their campuses.

At Clover Creek Elementary in Tacoma, the innocence of the students is endearing. But even at a young age, the children are given monthly reminders that the world is not always safe.

“I have a different tone of voice when I get on the announcement for our drills,” Principal Sara Olson said.

From how to lock down and how to run to safety.

“God forbid we have an intruder in our building. We teach them. We also want them to run -- we are not going to just sit and wait,” Olson said.

The tragedy in Sandy Hook is ingrained in Olson’s mind. Five years later it still gives her chills.

That’s why the Bethel School District is determined to keep strangers from getting access in the first place and it starts at the front doors of their schools.

Visitors have to get buzzed in after showing a photo ID and explaining the purpose of the visit.

From inside, staff members can verify the visitor through a camera system.

Jack Moran, who was dropping off his grandson on Thursday, said the security system gives him peace of mind. He believes all schools should have similar systems in place.

“The world's not getting any safer,” Moran said.

“The protocol with our staff is if they notice something suspicious at the door, they call 911 and they also have a panic button,” security director Bryan Streleski said.

Tahoma High School also a panic button that locks down the school so no one can enter from the outside.  The school also has backpacks with emergency supplies in many rooms.

The students recently moved into a their new building in Maple Valley and now Tahoma High School is the largest high school in the state.

Principal Terry Duty said their old high school had more than 56 entrances, while the new school has two. And the two entrances are controlled so that visitors have to walk into an office before they can get inside the main part of the school.

But what’s most impressive about the new school in the Tahoma School District is that they have 230 cameras that are equipped with motion sensors so they can pinpoint an intruder in real time.

“You can track somebody and then we have the ability to close gates, isolate anybody that should not be here,” Duty said.

Duty says even their high-tech defenses may not stop every attack, but when every minute counts, it could help.