BERKELEY -- Berkeley's school district will hire consultants to re-examine safety procedures and gunman-on-campus scenarios at all 20 schools following the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., officials said Wednesday.
"What happened in Newtown has scared every parent in the country," said Susan Craig, director of student services for the 9,000-student district. "How do you prevent an active shooter from getting on campus? And if that happens, is there some strategy to prevent death and serious injury?"
Craig said the district will hire consultants and work with the police and fire departments much the same way it did at Berkeley High School in June 2011, when a series of seven incidents in which students were discovered with guns there prompted quick corrective action. The audits of each school -- from preschools to the adult school -- will combine what to do when a violent person comes to a school and new fire and earthquake plans, which the schools already have, she said.
In the past three weeks, schools in the district have already reviewed with their students existing safety procedures when a gunman comes on campus, said district spokesman Mark Coplan.
At Berkeley High, following the gun incidents there in 2011, the district increased security by reducing the number of entrances to the school, hired more security staff, trained more security officers and increased to five days a week the time that a Berkeley police officer is on campus.
All those actions were in the right direction, but now the bar has been raised, Craig said.
"If you look what happened in Newtown, with a locked door and a camera and you had to buzz someone in, and that still didn't prevent the disaster, that is weighing heavily on everyone's minds," Craig said. "Some practices are controversial. Taking down an active shooter, is that something that is recommended, and would we consider it?"
Craig rejected the National Rifle Association's suggestion to put armed guards in all schools. But she noted Berkeley High's school police officer is armed.
"But to train volunteers who will carry guns to supervise campuses, I'm not in favor of that," Craig said.
Following the horror in Connecticut, principals at Berkeley schools got lots of calls and emails asking them how their children could be protected.
"The concerns were all legitimate," Craig said.
Tracy Hollander, education chair of the Berkeley Parent Teacher Association Council, who has a son in a Berkeley middle school, said she is happy the district is being proactive.
"I'd like to think that students in middle schools and high schools are aware what to do in a situation and that teachers at elementary schools know what to do," Hollander said. "My concern would be that what we undertake is practical to us and our setting."
Craig said the district is especially interested in looking at what it can do to narrow entrances and exits at two elementary schools: Craigmont and Thousand Oaks.
"Some entrances and exits we can't lock," Craig said. "If there is a recommendation that certain access points need to be closed, it's important they meet fire codes."
Craig said the safety audit at Berkeley High School cost about $5,000.
"But this is not going to be cheap when you're talking about a comprehensive review of 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, two high school campuses, three preschools and an adult school," she said.
The school board will be briefed on the plan Wednesday night, and Craig will come back to the board Jan. 23 with detailed plans of what the audit will include and what it will cost, she said.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.