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Tamaqua looks at school entrances

Published December 10. 2019 01:05PM

The Tamaqua Safety Commission Monday night addressed concerns about the front entrance to the high school.

Superintendent Ray Kinder said that there are buzzer systems on a few doors at the high school/middle school and at the elementary schools. He said a feasibility study is in progress and he’s hopeful to receive recommendations.

“That’s why I brought up about an alert system (wired to the entryways),” said school board President Larry Wittig.

“I think there definitely should be something, I feel very strong about that. It’s a one-time investment; it’s not an ongoing investment. We have to have some kind of monitoring.”

Tamaqua Police Chief Henry Woods expressed his concerns with the front entryway of the high school.

“That whole front entrance is a problem,” Woods said during the meeting.

“When you come up to the door; I’ve been in plain clothes, stopping up for one of my kids for something in the office. A student will be at the door, get buzzed in while standing there and holding the door open (for me) having no clue who I am. … That bothers me. Rectifying that, what do you do for that entrance?”

Deterrents

What steps are the right measures to deter an act of violence at school?

Cathy Miorelli, school nurse, made a few strong points.

“To have a social worker in every building, to have a full-time nurse in every building,” she said during the meeting.

“We have one elementary counselor for two buildings, and one nurse for elementary and West Penn has a part-time. … More staff to take care of the kids.”

“Just like Cathy said about the social workers; would that be a deterrent or something that’s going to prevent an active shooter in the building?” Wittig asked after the meeting.

“Maybe five years from now that person would not act out, which is a very valuable thing. But I’m concerned with, right now for students and staff; somebody walking through that door, and they’re in the building. Every life is important.”

Armed staff?

Wittig said the group would further discuss armed personnel in the near future.

“There are people that wanted no parts of any guns in school ever,” said Wittig after the meeting.

“That I think is just impractical, considering what we’re dealing with. Who has those weapons? If a recommendation comes out here — that someone will have a weapon — who will that look like? It’s a budgetary issue, and a big question; what is a life worth?

The controversy of arming staff at Tamaqua, or anyone for that matter, has been a long, ongoing heated debate.

“Having an armed, uniformed, badged, open-carry person (at school), to some extent, is a deterrent as well,” Wittig said.

“The board is going to discuss more at length what we’re talking about here in terms of specifics. I would think that one of the recommendations coming out of the committee would be a properly trained armed person that passes the (law) criteria.”

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