JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – In the wake of the shootings at STEM School Highlands Ranch, Douglas County is considering using $10 million to make safety improvement in its schools. With more than $700,000 in grant money, the Jefferson County School District is in the midst of enhancing their security.

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So how do you make schools safer? Principal Pam Yoder asks herself that question every day.

“There’s not a simple fix at all,“ she said

At her school, Dennison Elementary in Lakewood, Jefferson County Safety Director John McDonald guides them.

“For years we have talked about ‘what do you do when you’re on fire?’ Now the conversation we have to have is ‘what do we do when you’re under fire?’  We cannot be afraid of that conversation,” he said.

John McDonald (credit: CBS)

McDonald’s job is to improve security at more than 150 schools in his district. In Jefferson County, that is more than 80,000 students and 14,000 staff members.

“How far does a dollar go?” CBS4’s Karen Morfitt asked.

“Well it really depends on what you need and how you use it,” he answered.

Some of the changes can seem relatively small, but he says they have a big impact, and that is their goal.

Pam Yoder (credit: CBS)

“They get nervous, they are rattling, they are trying to get this open plus once they do that then they have to get back around,” Yoder said while demonstrating the trouble her teachers have locking down their rooms.

“The opportunity to have a lock on the inside, quickly allows you to lock down and your door is just shut all the time, it saves lives,” McDonald said.

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They are also adding a mass notification system that goes far beyond a text alert.

“Every digital display whether it’s a computer, a cellphone, a television, outdoor signage will provide alerts,” he said.

Yoder says it may not be the answer everyone is looking for, but it is a start.

“Every little thing we do will help our students help our parents and help our staff take a deep breath,” she said.

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While the locks are changes that will be made over the summer, long term McDonald says they also plan to add cameras in their schools that have the ability to recognize specific descriptions and then track those individuals throughout a school. It can help point law enforcement in the direction of a threat improving overall response times.

Karen Morfitt

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