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Local Schools Stepping Up Security

Schools across the region are prepping for classes to begin and that means checking up on their security.
BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - Local schools are taking big measures to increase security.

Schools across the region are prepping for classes to begin. Most of their work now is ensuring new security systems are in place and ready to go.

One school district is taking their security to a whole new level.

Each school in the Bellefonte School District has a new entry system for their buildings. Not only do you have to buzz twice to get inside the main office, but once you're in, you have to scan your driver's license through a computerized system that accesses the Megan's Law database.

"It's for the security of the children," Cheryl Potteiger said.

As superintendent of the Bellefonte Area School District, Potteiger says security is top priority.

"You can't be safe enough," she said.

Just last week, a shooter entered an elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia and threatened to open fire. Potteiger says it's situations like these that have changed everything.

"There will be a school gate guardian," she said.

Now when you hear the word "guardian," you may think of a school resource officer or even an extra security guard, but this is a little different.

Now when you come to Bellefonte Middle School, you have to slide your ID through a computerized system. Once your information goes through and is read, a pass will print out and then you can walk into the school.

"It will check against the Megan's Law Database to make sure first of all, you are who you say you are, this is your license, and that you have no record in the federal database," Potteiger said.

If visitors pass the test, then they can gain entry.

Potteiger says overall, the district spent about $90,000 to update their security systems, including new cameras and changes to the front office doors and windows.

She says between $10,000 and $12,000 were spent on the School Gate Guardian System.

"I just think in this day and age, you have to be worried about security systems and what you do for children so they feel safe when they come to school," Potteiger said. "Parents have to feel comfortable sending them to school and every level of security we can add to the schools just enhances our ability to protect them."

Other schools in Centre County have made similar changes.

The Penns Valley School District had new cameras installed in all their schools this summer. They're also implementing a new double entry system to slow a visitor's entry into the building.

Administrators are also continuing to complete training to identify people that could be a potential threat to the school.

Administrators for the Bald Eagle Area School District say all of their schools are locked down throughout the day, with only one access point to enter each building. ID is required to enter and 92 new cameras have been added in and out of the high school.

Administration there will also have access to each students' information via cell phone.

State College Area School District has installed new cameras and panic buttons in the schools, that way they can make a call to 911 if there is an intruder situation. They have also implemented new security to keep all the schools on lockdown throughout the day.

In Somerset, the school district has partnered with the Borough Police to have a dedicated officer for the school and installed new video surveillance.

Teachers and staff have also trained how to react and best keep the students safe in case of an active shooter.

Saint Mary's and Brookville Area Schools have also hired a new security officer.

In 2011, DuBois upgraded their camera system and just last year, Curwensville added a system that takes a photo of everyone that walks into the school.

Many other schools across the region are also discussing and taking steps to improve security and to keep students safe.

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