High school district installing 'Columbine locks'

If San Mateo’s high school students are feeling shaken by the horror of last week’s shooting at Northern Illinois University, perhaps a new safety measure being taken by the high school district will make them rest easier.

Within the next four weeks, new locks will be installed in all schools in the San Mateo Union High School District. The locks, informally known as Columbine locks, can be locked from the inside by a teacher to secure the room from threats outside.

The district is spending $263,095 of bond money to buy and install the 581 locks, said Elisabeth McManus, the district’s chief business official. The new locks will be installed at Burlingame High School, Mills High School, Capuchino High School, Aragon High School and Hillsdale High SchoolSan Mateo High School already has the new locks.

Before, most of the doors in the schools locked with a key from the outside. The new door handles have a keyed lock on the outside and the inside. In addition, 156 of the doors locks have “panic bars,” orbars that can be pushed to open the door, McManus said. Both styles are designed to allow people to exit regardless of whether the door is locked, but not enter.

The idea for the locks arose when district Superintendent David Miller was talking to staff members at one of the schools who were worried about the school’s safety measures, McManus said.

“Some of the staff at the school said that with all the things that have happened nationwide, they wanted something that would safeguard them in the case of an emergency,” she said.

San Mateo police Capt. Kevin Raffaelli said police think Columbine locks are a great idea, but not all schools can come up with the funding for them. Those schools have other options, he said.

“Whether it’s getting the locks, or, if that’s too expensive, then having a door stop, or a rope inside the classroom to secure the door,” he said. “It’s just important to think about it now before anything happens.”

Raffaelli said there have been nearly 50 school shootings in the last 10 years, and most were over before law enforcement arrived on scene — meaning schools must do what they can to prevent shootings, and prevent injuries in the case that one occurs.

The locks will be installed after school is out in the coming weeks, so classes are not disturbed, she said. All locks should be complete in four weeks.

kworth@examiner.com

By the numbers

» Lever-style door handles: 425

» Bar-style handles: 156

» Total number of locks: 581

» Cost of locks: $178,000

» Cost of installation: $85,000

» Total cost: $263,000

Schools receiving locks:

» Burlingame High School (1,369 students)

» Mills High School (1,562 students)

» Capuchino High School (1,192 students)

» Aragon High School (1,570 students)

» Hillsdale High School (1,200 students)

» San Mateo High School (1,502 students)

Source: San Mateo Union High School District. Enrollment figures from 2005-2006 figures from the U.S. Department of Education.

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