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CMS completes $20 million security project

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/19/19/37/69HXh.Em.138.jpeg|240
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    A new camera in a hallway at Cotswold Elementary School Tuesday. CMS students will begin classes Monday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/19/19/37/xPj9p.Em.138.jpeg|316
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    First-grade teacher Allie Smith prepares her classroom at Cotswold Elementary School Tuesday. Most CMS students will begin classes Monday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has wrapped up nearly $20 million in security upgrades across its campuses, a project that began just months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Schools are all equipped with a buzzer entry system, Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain said Tuesday during a news conference at Cotswold Elementary. They also have new equipment that will produce a visitor badge while checking a person’s name against databases of sex offenders and violent criminals.

The district also installed 4,000 more security cameras in schools across the county. High schools have long had cameras. Now all schools will have them, including elementary schools for the first time, bringing the total number to 6,500.

“Before I can tell a parent, ‘Hey, this is what your child learned in math, reading, writing, and social studies today,’ we have to do everything we can to keep our children safe,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said. “We take that very seriously.”

School districts across the nation embarked on new security measures after the shooting deaths of 26 teachers and students in December 2012. The following March, Mecklenburg County commissioners approved the money for a slate of new equipment and policies. Funding for the project came from money saved from a 2007 bond referendum.

In March, CMS officials said that while the Sandy Hook tragedy sped up the timeline for the project, the new systems would likely help more with common occurrences: vandalism, trespassing, fights and medical emergencies.

But CMS has also prepared for the worst. New security equipment includes a panic button in administrative areas. District staff also went through an active shooter drill.

Earlier this month, the mother of a Sandy Hook victim spoke to Charlotte leaders at a meeting of the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club about what schools should be doing to protect students.

“As she went through her list, I was paying very careful attention,” Morrison said Tuesday. “All the things she said we should be be doing, we are doing plus more.”

Dunn: 704-358-5235; Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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