School locks not allowed

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Devices were part of security upgrade

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County schools installed a series of locking door barricades on the division’s interior doors only to go back and disable the devices at the request of the fire marshal.

“The division has removed the parts necessary to be in compliance with state fire codes,” said schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs.

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The Nightlock door barricades were part of an $846,944 request approved by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The money came from savings realized on past school roofing projects. 

The devices cost $64,658 for 718 doors and the school division did check with the Fire Marshal before installation, said Briggs.

The Fire Marshal said to check with the building inspector, but that did not happen, she said. 

Briggs said the state has organized a safety commission that is determining what devices, if any, would be allowed in emergency situations. 

The locking device is placed inside classroom doors and when activated, makes it impossible for an intruder to open the door from the outside. However, the device also allows administrators and law enforcement to release the lock when the situation has cleared, according to the presentation given to the Board of Supervisors.  

Apparently this is a concern across Virginia.

The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office notified the Virginia Department of Education stating that some school divisions have installed the door barricades as a safety measure, according to an email from James Lane with the Virginia Department of Education.

The problem lies with the installation of the device, which may adversely impact the fire resistance of the doors and any warranties in effect, according to Lane. 

The State Fir Marshal’s Office said that if the devices had been installed without the review and approval of the appropriate fire official, then they must be removed, according to Lane. 

Other arguments against the device point out that some shooters have barricaded themselves inside with the victims and barricaded doors may have hampered rescue measures — as well as being a fire hazard. 

Other security measures outlined in Isle of Wight schools request were a one-button style emergency alert system, an access control system using badges that must be swiped and more interior and exterior cameras. 

Briggs said a request for proposals has gone out for the emergency communication system, and the division has held meetings with the county to make sure the system is compatible with current systems in place, said Briggs. 

“We are waiting to see the actual cost of the ECS before moving forward on the other projects.  The bid opening for this project is Sept. 25,” said Briggs.  {/mprestriction}