Wellington schools address disaster, shooting risks

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WELLINGTON, Kan. -- Tragedy can strike at any moment, and some worry that Wellington schools are at risk.

School superintendent Rick Weiss said after an EF5 tornado struck Moore, Okla., last May, he wanted to be sure that all schools were prepared for a natural disaster.

Two schools -- Eisenhower Elementary and Roosevelt School -- do not have a safe room. He wanted that to change.

"Such a tragedy in Moore," said Wellington resident Connie Sowersby. "I think it would be nice if they did have a storm shelter for the kids that are right there, that they could get into."

Weiss enlisted the help of Ed Klock, a partner at PGA Architects in Wichita, to examine the district.

Much to the district's surprise, he found that all seven schools faced some safety problems. It's a challenge that districts across the state are addressing, Klock said.

"The bigger the buildings are, the more outside doors they have and the harder it is to control security," he said.

Klock met with school board members last week to address his findings.

One security challenge was at the middle school, where the office is in the center of the building. The school may have to give up a classroom for added safety.

"We may have to make room out of a classroom that was adjacent to the front door. We created a welcome center, and so it becomes a security check point for the building," Klock said.

Some school board members do not want to give up the space or pay the $3 million it will cost with the proposal for all schools.
Terri Carlson, who has two teenagers in Wellington, said money should never be an issue.

"It is a lot of money, but if it is to keep your children safer at school," she said. "Cause you never know if it's going to happen. It's a good safety measure to take."

Carlson's children both attend Wellington High School -- built less than 10 years ago -- and is the newest building in the district. It's already equipped with security cameras, but Klock said the school needs key-card access because of its accessibility and high foot traffic.

He also said the high school and other schools should have bullet-proof equipment in all offices and a special overlay for windows in case of a school shooting.

"The material would help the window keep together, like your windshield on your car, so somebody could try to break through or even shoot through," he said. "Won't stop the bullet, but it keeps the glass together to keep the intruder out."

The school district has not made a formal decision on the security plan. Architects will meet with school board members for a work session later this month.

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