School security in Eagle County is one of Columbine’s legacies |

School security in Eagle County is one of Columbine’s legacies

Vail Valley voters approved $6.3 million for new security systems in 2016

To gain entrance to most Eagle County schools, visitors must be buzzed in. It's all part of the $6.3 million in security upgrades that local voters approved when they passed the school bond.
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — Two decades ago two teenagers opened fire in a Colorado high school, killing 13 people and themselves.

The shockwaves reverberated across the country. Schools hardened their targets, making it more difficult for bad guys to get in.

“That’s been the legacy of Columbine across the nation. It changed the country’s entire public school system to safeguard against those kinds of threats,” Dan Dougherty, Eagle County schools communications chief said.

Student security always wins

Eagle County taxpayers voted to spend more than $6.3 million on new school security systems, part of the bond package approved in Nov. 2016.

And sure, it’s also a little more inconvenient for visitors, but in the trade-off between student security and convenience, security wins, say Eagle County Schools officials.

Four-pronged approach

  • Secure entryways: You have to punch a buzzer. The front office folks look you over, and if you’re more or less OK, they’ll probably let you in.
  • Door badging systems: By using electronic badges instead of physical keys, they can see who came in or out and when they did it. If someone loses a physical key, it can cost up to $10,000 to rekey an entire building.
  • Electronic door monitoring: They can tell when a door is open that’s not supposed to be and how long it has been open.
  • Video cameras keep track of everyone who comes and goes.

Deactivating an active shooter

In the worst-case scenario, a shooter is trying to get into your school building. The new security systems allow law enforcement, school staff and others to watch what’s happening in real time. One button can lock down multiple buildings simultaneously. No one has to go around with a key locking doors.

Law enforcement has access to the security camera feed, if they need it, which means they don’t have to work their way through an entire building to find the bad guys. Todd Shahan, Eagle County Schools’ chief technology officer, explained when the systems were being brought online that real-time video shows school officials and law enforcement where the bad guys are.

“I’ve been part of lots active shooting training. Most of those deal with how we react to active shooters, and those were all post-Columbine. I don’t remember lockout and lockdown drills when I was in school. They would either be duck and cover drills or tornado drills,” Shahan said.

Catching a buzz

For example, as Shahan was demonstrating the system he sat at his desk in Eagle and found a door propped open in Avon Elementary School. It wasn’t propped open long.

While we were watching, the UPS guy had to buzz and be let in.

You, too, have to buzz and be let in. Your first reaction might be frustration. Take a deep cleansing breath and get over it. Those few seconds are an investment in your children’s security.

“You have to have all the students’ foundational needs met before they’re open to learning. Safety and security is our No. 1 priority,” Dougherty said.

Some of the security is new, some of it is tried and true. You’ve had to buzz into Eagle Valley Elementary School for years. All local schools have had lock-down buttons for years, Shahan said.

No system is perfect

Security systems are not foolproof … the Sandy Hook shooter fired through windows until he could shoot his way in … but they help.

Yes, it creates a small inconvenience for parents and others — a First World problem if ever there was one — but for the increased safety of our students, it’s worth it.

“I want to be able to stand in front of our community and say we are doing the best we possibly can,” Shahan said.

All of this and so much more is possible is possible because the voters approved the bond, enabling schools up and down the valley to be rebuild and renovated, Dougherty said.

“Our goal is to help the community feel safe when their kids go off to school,” Dougherty said.

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