REALITY CHECK: Schools spending millions on safety enhancements

REALITY CHECK: Schools spending millions on safety enhancements. (File photo)

CHATHAM, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) --- School districts on tight budgets are scraping up millions of dollars to do one thing: protect the front doors of their buildings. This, as authorities say, school shooters target main entrance ways to get inside.

It's a trend that is taking tax dollars away from academics and into school safety initiatives.

John Whitlock, of BLDD Architects in Decatur, says in a typical year he communicates with about 70 school districts on architectural designs to enhance safety. School entrance ways are typically the first obstacle.

"It could be a $300,000 - $500,000 renovation project just to change an entry sequence," Whitlock said.

The Athens Community Unit School District approved an $11 million referendum for school building upgrades back in March.

Ball Chatham Schools will spend just under $63,000 this summer alone to revamp the entrance way to Glenwood High School.

"Once they get beyond the first set of unlocked doors, the interior doors will be locked," said Randy Allen, Director of Safety and Security for Ball Chatham Schools. "At that point, there will be a horn they will have to press and they will have direct eye communication with the officer at the desk."

"You have to do things with the doors, windows, locks and buzzers that weren't even required even a decade ago," Allen said.

"I've always appreciated the security that we have here," said Tracy Schatteman, a mother from Chatham. "We have to look at economic factors. I think that's something I'd like to see."

Whitlock says the state of Illinois only hands out a fraction of what districts need to maximize security in schools.

"It's an unfunded need," Whitlock said.

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