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Kanawha County making progress on classroom locks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school officials are working to make sure every classroom can lock from the inside. But the improvements will take time, leaders said.

Ideally, it takes about 30 minutes to replace a lock, said Terry Hollandsworth, maintenance director for the school system.

Even under those circumstances it is unlikely the two locksmiths employed by Kanawha County Schools could change all the locks in one building in a day, he said.

Still, the county has replaced the locks on every classroom door in 28 schools,

Maintenance workers have installed what he called "intruder locks," or doorknobs that can be locked from either side of the door. They're more substantial than the typical door lock; Hollandsworth compared them to locks on the doors at convenience stores.

The county has the parts to replace the locks at 11 more schools, Hollandsworth said.

The locks have been a focal point for school system security since the mass shooting in Connecticut earlier this month.

The county board of education asked Hollandsworth to prepare a progress report on the installation of the new classroom door locks. He said he'd have that report ready for the board before its next meeting.

Right now in Kanawha County, a teacher would need to open the door and put the key in the lock from the outside in order to secure the classroom.

"The teachers have no way to protect their students should an emergency arise," said Dinah Adkins, president of the Kanawha County Education Association, during a recent board of education meeting. "It leaves people vulnerable."

Many times there are problems with the doors themselves, added Chuck Wilson, director of the facilities department. The door might not close correctly or might need to be replaced. That requires time and money.

"That's taken literally years to do those (locks)," Wilson said. "You're talking thousands of locks."

The new locks offer teachers more than the ability secure classrooms from the inside. Although only one key will lock or unlock the door from the outside, any classroom key can lock the door from the inside, Wilson said. It's helpful if a teacher takes his or her students to the library or a different room and there is an emergency, Wilson said.

"I can't get in the room across the hall, however if I happen to be in that room, I can use my key to lock it from the inside," Wilson said.

The money for the project came from the state School Building Authority's School Access Safety Funds, Wilson said. Through Nov. 15 the authority had provided more than $3.1 million from the fund to Kanawha County Schools, according to public records.

That money is not solely for the new locks. Wilson estimated about half a million dollars have gone to the locks. He's stretched the funds by having county locksmiths perform the work, and he's hopeful there could be more money from the authority in the near future to complete the project.

"We figure we need another $600,000 to do it," Wilson said.

For now, that means trying to prioritize where those locks should go. Wilson said the county started with high schools and worked its way down to some of the middle schools, leaving most of the elementary schools without the new locks.

Classroom doors are not the only security concern. The county has installed better locking systems for the doors leading into schools as well, Wilson said. Specifically, he said for the last six or seven years the county has installed a new type of locking system for the exterior doors.

The locks are from the pyramid key system, a product of the Corbin Russwin company. The company makes the keys and locks uniquely for its customers, so that local locksmiths cannot make duplicate copies of the keys, Wilson said. That's been a problem in the past.

"There were schools out there where there were probably 50 keys to the school," Wilson said. "Everyone in the neighborhood had one."

All exterior school doors are supposed to remain locked during the school day. Wilson said the county is always focused on school safety, but its tough to predict where an incident could happen.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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