Newton plans to install a buzzer and camera system in each of its elementary and middle schools “as quickly as possible” in response to security concerns after last month's school shooting in Connecticut, the superintendent announced Friday.
The change ends a long tradition of open school buildings in the Garden City.
“We must continue to improve our safety practices and procedures in a thoughtful manner," superintendent David Fleishman said in a letter to the school community.
"There are sensible security measures that we can implement while preserving the sense of community that is a hallmark of the Newton Public Schools. We plan to install a buzzer and camera system as quickly as possible in our pre-K-8 buildings that will enable the schools to be locked during the school day through dismissal.”
Many schools throughout Massachusetts enhanced their security in the days after 20 children and six adults were killed Dec. 14 by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
But most Newton schools kept their front doors unlocked, angering some parents who started a Facebook page and an online petition asking the district to reconsider its policy.
Newton schools will continue their current practice of keeping the front door open during drop-off time so that parents can take their children into school at the start of the day, Fleishman said. While parents and visitors may still enter during the school day, they will be allowed in after using the buzzer and being identified by school staff.
Parents will be notified when the changes will be implemented, Fleishman said.
"Both the Mayor and School Committee are supportive of this decision. It is also important to note that a majority of our peer districts now either have these types of systems or have plans to install them in the near future," Fleishman wrote. "In the coming weeks, we will continue to assess our safety and security procedures in all of our buildings, including the high schools."
Newton's two high schools are already equipped with cameras, but multiple doors are typically kept unlocked.
In recent years all schools have installed shades and locks on classroom doors, according to Fleishman's letter, and staff are trained in how to respond to a crisis through lockdown drills, shelter-in-place procedures, and evacuations. More information on safety procedures in the Newton schools can be found here.