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Local Schools Increase Safety Measures After Sandy Hook

Last year's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut prompted schools around the country to assess their safety procedures.  School districts are enhancing their safety plans with a mix of training and technology. 

To date, roughly 2300 schools in the state have applied for grants to improve safety this year, according to the Ohio School Facilities Commission.  One of those is Mad River Local Schools.

Communications Director, Jennifer Birtle, says their newer buildings already had state of the art safety features, but Sandy Hook made them realize that wasn’t enough.

“We spent $14,000 dollars on entry door improvements at buildings," Birtle says. "Security cameras and buzzers at all doors that did not have them. Another thing that we also have done is we’ve implemented more lockdown drills at all the schools, and we’re looking into ALICE Training at the high school.”

ALICE, is a safety response plan advising schools to Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The ‘counter’ part of the plan, or fighting back, is controversial, but Tom Henderson, Centerville Schools Superintendent, says all schools in his district have gone through the ALICE program. He admits, though, the training is tough.

“There was a range of emotions where you’re actually talking about responding to an intruder, potentially an armed gunmen, or somebody with automatic weapons coming in with one intention, and that intention is to harm as many people as possible," says Henderson.  "So yeah, these are hard conversations to have.”

Governor John Kasich signed the two-year, $12 million dollar School Security Grant Program earlier this year. It provides safety upgrades and emergency radios to districts across the state.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.