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Atlantic City schools say security is tight, as long as human error is avoided

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Atlantic City Board of Education

The Atlantic City Board of Education discusses school safety Tuesday.

ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City School District is following best practices to prevent a shooter from getting into its buildings, an official told the school board at its meeting Tuesday night.

Atiba N. Rose Sr., director of operations for the school district, described safety measures in the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at the request of Superintendent La’Quetta Small.

The district has comprehensive emergency response protocols for lockdowns and other measures, Rose said. Administrators have panic buttons to communicate with police in the event of an emergency, including wireless versions they carry with them.

There are security guards in each building, Rose said. At the high school there are 25 guards and metal detectors and bag searches for everyone entering the building.

There is also a police outpost at the high school.

“We are always looking for best practices,” Rose said as he described policies already in place to protect students.

But those measures are only effective if people do not take shortcuts, Rose said.

“Any school could have top level safety measures, however, it is human error oftentimes causing safety issues, such as propping doors open and piggybacking (someone allowing the person behind them in even if they don’t know them),” Rose said.

Districtwide, there are 407 video cameras the Police Department can access, he said.

Most schools in the district have secure vestibules, where visitors can be vetted a second time before being allowed into the building.

Texas Avenue, Brighton Avenue and Chelsea Heights schools are soon to be renovated to include secure vestibules, Rose said.

“We just met with a contractor June 6 for Texas and Brighton Avenue schools,” Rose said. “Chelsea Heights already has been to bid. The work will start when the children leave for the summer.”

Soon there will be a communication system installed, Rose said, that will provide message boards for communicating emergency information to students.

Board member John Devlin said the board considered putting metal detectors in other schools some years ago but got pushback from the public.

Devlin asked whether the district should look into it again, since some of the worst shootings — including Uvalde — have been in elementary schools.

“If that is the direction the superintendent wants to go, that’s what we’ll do,” Rose said.

Schools have even installed a drive-thru area where people can submit paperwork, much like they might make drive-thru deposits at a bank, said Coordinator of Public Safety Ernest Jubilee.

Jubilee is a retired Atlantic City police chief.

“People are used to it now,” Jubilee said of a policy that visitors drop things off at the window or at the front door without coming into the school.

“When people do have to come in, they get a brightly colored lanyard, a card with their name on it and their destination,” Jubilee said. “We keep a log of who is in.”

Jubilee said all visitors’ names are run through an electronic system, to be sure no child abusers are let in the building.

REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post

609-841-2895

mpost@pressofac.com

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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