School security has been a significant concern for school administrations around country for several years and in the wake of the Dec. 14 rampage where Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, it has risen even higher.
The Nevada R-5 School District has required visitors to sign in at the offices of each school for a number of years and has kept all doors but the main entrance locked after students arrived.
Now they are looking at what can be done to increase the level of security, without turning the schools into a prison.
Until now the ideas that have been considered came from the administration and staff.
Friday morning Nevada R-5 Superintendent Dr. David Stephens took the district's security concerns to those who are directly affected by them -- students.
Stephens had the high school principal Debra Workman bring together a representative group of 25 students for a pizza lunch at the high school to have an open discussion of what concerned the students and what they felt the district could do to enhance their feeling of security.
One student said that she was concerned about how quickly the cafeteria could be evacuated if necessary, because of the limited number of entries.
Another student told Stephens that another school he had attended had buzzers with intercoms at each of the locked doors to gain access to the building.
"I hadn't thought about intercoms at all the doors," Stephens said. Later saying that he would look into that option.
"The tech center's doors are already locked and someone must let people in," he said.
Another student brought up the idea of having "trusted teachers" with concealed carry permits be allowed to have a gun at the school.
On the other side of that issue was the fear from other students that an unarmed person could get into the school and take a gun from a teacher and then use it.
"You guys have thought this through," Stephens told the students.
Stephens said that there is pending state legislation to allow teachers to be armed, however, he said that local boards of education already have the option of allowing teachers to be armed.
The proposed state law would take that decision out of the local boards of education control.
"I go back and forth on this," Stephens said.
"I struggle with this," he said.
One of the key tools used to keep students safe in the event of a school incursion is a lock-down, and the R-5 district has procedures for this in place at each building.
As for how they are implemented, that is less cut and dried.
"Whatever it would take to get everyone in a lock-down. You could just say lock-down over the intercom," Stephens said.
"In Connecticut lock-down procedures saved kids. They heard shots and then the teachers implemented the lock-down," he said.
A similar set of circumstances would trigger a lock-down here without someone coming on the intercom.
He told the students that several years ago they had a real lock-down at the high school when the police called and told them there was someone walking in the area with a gun.
He said that turned out to be nothing.
The students told Stephens that there need to be more lock down drills, in all the classes. That way they will know how to respond where ever they happen to be.
One student wanted to know what they are to do if they are walking between the high school and the tech center when something happens.
"If you guys have these questions, your peers do," Stephens said.
A student told Stephens that the danger is not just from someone coming from outside the school but also from the students, since you have no way to know who has a weapon.
To which another student suggested that there should be random book bag checks.
"How do you balance book bag checks with privacy," Stephens said.
"That's big, having a student make that suggestion," Stephens said after the meeting.
Another suggestion was metal detectors at each door.
"How do you think kids would feel about metal detectors?" Stephens asked the students.
One of the students said that it would make some worry more.
Another suggestion was to have an outside door for each classroom so students could get out without going through the rest of the school.
However, that suggestion would not help students on the second floor of the high school, where this meeting took place.
"You could have ladders that unroll to get out of second floor rooms," another student said.
Another student remindeded them that would not work for some disabled people.
Truman Elementary already has exit doors for each classroom, Stephens said, adding that all new school buildings will have exit doors for each classroom.
"This is a great conversation. Better than I expected," Stephens told the students.
"On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable do you feel about coming to school?" Stephens asked the students.
The consensus among the students was between five and six.
"Five is having as many days being fearful as being comfortable," Stephens said.
He said the district needs to look at what they need to do bring that down to a two or three.
Stephens told the students that he was going to look at several of their suggestions, including:
Better training for the staff, so that everyone, including the students, knows what to do.
Change the entrances to buildings to limit access without being admitted to the building.
Intercoms and cameras at each door.
Card keys and number pad entrance at locked doors for students and staff access.