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Burbank Leader

Mass shootings prompt security upgrade at Burbank elementary school

4:46 PM PST, January 22, 2013

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The shooting deaths of 20 first-graders at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. has prompted Burbank Unified officials to install a buzz-in security system at Emerson Elementary School — the last campus of its kind to not have one.

Emerson — one of 11 elementary schools in the district — will also get an intercom and security camera as part of the security upgrade after Burbank Unified school board members approved the $9,000 project.

After the events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, in which a shooter shot and killed 26 people, including 20 students — officials reviewed existing security measures at Burbank’s elementary school campuses.

“Sandy Hook was a real catalyst in the process of bringing this to the forefront of everyone’s attention,” said Christine Statton, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

Emerson Elementary is unique in that it has an iron gate leading to wooden French doors with glass panels that are part of the school’s decades-old architecture.

Officials hope to keep the current doors as part of the security upgrade.

“It’s not going to solve the problem completely,” said school board President Larry Applebaum, who pointed out that a potential intruder could breach any system, regardless of security measures. “There’s no way we can go out and tell the parents of this community that our children are absolutely, positively, 100% not vulnerable because that would be a lie.”

Emerson Principal Linda Acuff said she was pleased with the new plan, but noted that challenges await.

“I’m hoping the families will be patient as we adopt some new practice to handle the visitors,” she said.

School board member Dave Kemp said the new system would fulfill the need to give front office staffers enough time to pick up the phone and alert outsiders of an emergency.

“We just have to have a reasonable deterrent — at least give people a chance to make an emergency call,” he said.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan