Over spring break, Grace Prep installed new eight-foot security fences around the school campus.
This security upgrade has been in the works for nearly three years, and should increase the security according to Head of School Dr. Marc Evans.
“It’s not just a wall around the school, but it also makes it harder for predators to break in, and allows us to concentrate on keeping the main areas of the school secure,” said Bruce Nance, Director of Campus Security.
The board of directors had been planning on constructing an extra layer of security around the school several years before the fence was constructed. Gated communities with security guards experienced a lowered break in rate by a factor of nearly one-third, according to the International Foundation for Protection Officers. With any luck, the new fence at Grace Prep will do the same.
“There’s too many access points to our campus,” said Head of School Dr. Marc Evans, “There’s the neighborhood next door, there’s the open land behind us and out front, besides the front entry. They can come in every direction and we wanted to make sure that we knew who was coming into the campus and why they were here.”
Just over a week ago, the fence was put to the test when the school was put into lockdown from a potential security threat.
“There were supposedly a group of three guys walking up the service road,” reported Mr. Nance. “One of the students thought that they saw one of the men carrying a long-barreled firearm, and called it in. . . The fence definitely would have played a role in helping deter the suspects, especially in the back, if they truly had been trying to get into the school. They could have potentially climbed over it, but not without a lot of trouble.”
Mr. Nance said that he was thoroughly impressed with the actions of the students during the lock down and that their reactions were just the way he would have wanted them to be in this scenario.
The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, helped speed up the process of building the fence. According to Dr. Evans, a parent decided to pay for the fence, feeling that this change was something that was important to them.
“They [The recent shootings] played a role in expediting it,” said Dr. Evans, “The Sandy Hook shootings heightened the need for a fence in everybody’s mind. We obviously feel that we would hate for our parents to go through anything like that. And as I said before, all the side entries and back entries were wide open. So all we were doing was making it easier; almost inviting it.”
Since 1996, there have been fifty-five mass and school shootings in the U.S., according to infoplease.com, making the need for a fence around Grace Prep a big deal.
“It helps minimize the opportunity of potential predators to enter unwanted, and helps maximize our ability to keep unwanted people off campus,” said Nance, “But it doesn’t just stand to provide security for students and faculty, it also provides safety for materials on the campus.”
The FBI reported nearly 350,000 thefts and larceny on school campuses from 2000 to 2004. This made yet another reason for grace to build a fence.
Even with all the reasons for the fence’s construction, some people have expressed displeasure in the atmosphere created by the fence, saying it makes the school feel like a jail.
Dr. Evans said of this minor inconvenience, “I wish it was like it was twenty or thirty years ago, when we could come and go as we please. I wish it were like that at a rangers game, where they search me before I go into a game, search my wife’s bag, make us go through a metal detector; I wish they didn’t do that either. But in reality, to protect everyone else, you have to make some decisions that are in the better interest. I wish too, that it wasn’t a necessity, but in today’s world, with the accessibility that people outside have, we just felt that it was time for us to make a change.”
A discontent voiced by the student body, was the possibility of the new fence creating safety issues, especially in the case of fires. The people in charge of the fence’s instruction addressed this, consulting the fire department about what this would mean for the students in the case of an emergency. According to Mrs. Bradford, GPA’s Facility and Operations Director, the school’s first plan for a fence was not approved by the city, and they had to change some things in the fence. Their second plan was easily approved by the City’s Fire Code Inspector.
“We had to talk about how our procedures would change in the case of a fire and such,” said Evans, “We have crash bars on all the doors going out, so anybody can get out at any time. However, our crisis management plan has changed to make sure that we can exit buildings easily. They’re not going to keep us in, but they’re going to keep people out.”