BRIDGEPORT - As school shootings continue to be a concern across the nation, local schools are focusing on the safety of their buildings and reviewing emergency plans.
Ted Downing, superintendent of the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, said Bridgeport schools installed a NaviGate system shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. NaviGate is a web-based system where a school's information including its emergency plans are stored, updated and available to all emergency personnel.
Law enforcement, the fire department and EMS crews all have access to the school's cameras through the Internet. This means during an active shooting or other emergency, crews are able to see footage from the building as they approach the school.
"All our (emergency) plans are online and available electronically," Downing said. "The NaviGate system shows them everything they want to know."
In addition, Downing said the school district has installed panic switches in the buildings, so someone does not have to dial 911during an emergency.
"Safety is our number one priority," Downing said. "We've been working in the past year with first responders and have been very active in implementing safety measures."
Doug Thoburn, superintendent of the Union Local School District, said the district added two campus security officers from a private firm this school year for the elementary and high schools. The officers were hired in an effort to have a constant security presence in the schools.
"The officers have been extremely well-received by parents," Thoburn said. "When parents come into the buildings, they see we've taken the security of their children very seriously, and that sends a strong message."
Thoburn also said the district is continuing to improve its camera system, which was installed a year ago. He said the system spans the buildings and will be expanded as resources become available.
Union Local Schools also constantly reviews its safety plans as schools across the nation explore different options on how to respond to potential active shooter situations.
"Unfortunately, every time there is an incident, every schools learns from that," Thoburn said. "Right now in Ohio, there is a big conversation about how schools respond to active shooter situations. We are a lock-down school, but there are many schools exploring other responses. We are looking at the research."
Superintendent of Marshall County Schools Michael Hince said one of his county's biggest challenges has been equipping older buildings with the technology to meet the safety needs of today. The county has explored installing "mantraps" in school entryways and has worked to install key card entries for its buildings.
The Marshall County Board of Education is reviewing plans for the renovation of John Marshall High School to build a mantrap in the school's entryway.
The new Cameron High School also has a small room visitors must enter before being allowed into the school.
Wheeling Park High School has a similar set-up, as a school resource officer mans the front entrance throughout the day.