Tacoma schools renovations protect students in active shooter situations

As part of the renovation, the designs place a big focus on security in the case of an active shooter.

Tacoma Public Schools is the process of renovating more than a dozen elementary and middle schools with help from a $500 million bond measure.

As part of the renovation, the designs place a big focus on security in the case of an active shooter.

At McCarver Elementary, one of the renovated schools, it starts when you walk through the front door. Parents and visitors must check-in. They’re unable to walk through the second set of doors into the school before talking to staff.

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"At first when we came here some parents thought it was off-putting that they have to get buzzed in because it is kind of like, ‘Yeah, we control if you get to visit.’ But once you kind of put it in perspective, they say, ‘Oh okay I get it,'" said Rebecca Owens, McCarver School principal.

The front entrance is part of several new safety features at the renovated school. District spokesperson Nora Doyle showed how dry erase boards double as visual shields to those outside

"One of the things we want to do is keep students and staff by being able to shut down visibility into the classroom when that's needed,” said Doyle

"It’s like automatic. It should be part of your muscle memory so that you can keep kids,” said Owens.

Owens says staff is trained to move quickly during lockdown drills.

"I've got to be fast, so I've got to make sure the library stays, the downstairs cafeteria I have got to use my expertise to think through those things and keep my babies safe," said Owens. “Also, you got to train your kids what does quiet voices looks like right, so that they're quiet and safe."

Tacoma Public School parents like Lindsey Erwin say these features are crucial.

"I would like to see what they've done around the Tacoma schools become the norm. I think that as new schools are being built, but I think the older schools need to be retrofitted," said Erwin.

But Erwin says it’s not just about the drills inside the classroom. It’s the conversations at home with her son Jackson.

"As sad as it is I tell him his job is to get out and not to worry about where I am or where anybody else is, but his job is to keep himself safe."

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Those are the talks that will be had in classroom and homes across the area.

"Everybody is on a tightened concern, and they should be,” said Owens.

"I think as parents, and I think everyone in general, you want to not think about it. You want to deny it, you want to push it away and not bring it to the forefront, but no matter what, it keeps coming up," said Erwin.