NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WIVB) — It is that time of the year again – time to get kids ready to head back to school and some school districts are stepping up security this year.
Niagara Falls school leaders say they’re making changes at the beginning of the year and later on in the year, in direct response to the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“It’s not really the best way to open a school year, talking about security, but it’s the most prudent and unfortunate thing that we have to do,” said Mark Laurrie, the superintendent of Niagara Falls Schools.
When elementary school students return a few weeks from now, they will notice weapon detectors at every elementary school.
“If you look anywhere across the country, it’s not just been the upper levels that have this we want to give our community and our students and our families a sense of security despite the fact that it’s probably not what I ever envisioned when I got into this business,” Laurrie said. He adds that the installing of the new weapon detectors will cost the district $800,000.
“We did this last year in our two middle schools and in our high school it worked very well the weapons detection will now go to our elementary schools,” Laurrie said.
School officials say that vape pens, several knives and a few tasers were confiscated from the high school and prep schools.
This year, will also be the first full year that off-duty Falls police officers, will be used to help with foot traffic around schools. They will join forces with four school resource officers and safety officers.
Niagara Falls is also working on a district-wide construction project to build secured entrances and to better secure all 340 exterior doors in the district, so that if they’re propped open, an alarm will sound and a camera above will start rolling. 130 cameras would need to be installed. The cost of this project will be between $5 million and $8 million and will require approval from the New York State Department of Education.
In Uvalde, the accused gunman, according to police was able to gain access into the school through a door that had been propped open.
Other districts are stepping up security as well, such as Iroquois Schools, which are adding full-time school resource officers in every school building.
Niagara Falls Schools hopes to have two active shooter drills this school year.
The district will keep the policy that people will need to call ahead for an appointment at a district building. Laurrie says the district will work on incorporating more artwork and signs of school pride, to make sure schools aren’t so intimidating.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.