‘Columbine locks’ on hold for schools

San Mateo’s high school superintendent had wanted to install safety locks on all his district’s classrooms by the end of Thanksgiving break, but lack of competitive bids will push that project back at least another month.

The San Mateo Union High School District put a request for proposals last month on its project’s $85,000 safety lock installation project. The locks — informally known as “Columbine locks” — can be locked from within, allowing a teacher to secure a classroom against any threats outside.

“It provides an added safety valve for teachers, because most schools have the locking ability outside the door, and if you have someone planning to do harm to people on campus, they have to put themselves in harm’s way,” San Mateo police Capt. Kevin Raffaelli said.

School shootings have become an international issue since the Columbine rampage, with attention drawn to the Virginia Tech murders and Wednesday’s shootings at a high school in Tuusula, Finland, that left nine — including the shooter — dead.

Raffaelli said more and more schools are looking at installing the safety locks on their campuses, but budget restraints are often the largest hurdle, because the projects aren’t cheap.

Superintendent David Miller said the only bid received was for more than $170,000, due in part to the district’s insistence that the work be done at night and during the vacation period to avoid disrupting classes.

“It’s just another step to make sure that everyone feels as safe as they can,” Miller said. “But there have been no indications of threats to the schools.”

Miller said he still hopes to be able to begin some of the installations over Thanksgiving break and finish the rest before the end of the December holiday vacation.

Before Thanksgiving break, all San Mateo Union schools will also be wired with a phone system that allows teachers to contact all administrators, secretaries and facilities supervisors at their campus with one phone call in case of emergencies.

The phone system — like the safety locks — is already in use at San Mateo High School, and will be expanded to the other campuses in two weeks for less than $2,000 Miller said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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