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DENVER — Colorado school districts are unfortunately all too familiar with mass shootings. The Columbine tragedy is still fresh in the minds of many, and the latest shooting in Florida has put school security back in the forefront.
Districts across the state and nation made sweeping security changes after the 1999 shooting, including Denver Public Schools.
Security officials with DPS say the system they have in place now, while not foolproof, is a considerable improvement from the pre-Columbine era.
From its dispatch center, DPS security personnel watch over its 200 schools using a system of cameras, sensors and other devices and can control every buildings’ security system with a press of a button.
The district says its continually doing lockdown drills — up to three times a week. And if there is a threat, the dispatch center can lock the building down immediately.
But school security systems vary among the state’s 259 districts for a variety of reasons.
In rural Colorado, most districts don’t have the money or need to build high-tech dispatch centers, but relying solely on local law enforcement, some argue, can be dangerous as response times are much longer in these areas. So, some rural districts are arming their teachers.
Some teachers in the small town of Fleming, Colorado are armed. The rural district allows staff to carry a weapon after completing and passing an extensive training program and a psychological exam.
But this approach is controversial and may not work in larger districts in urban areas.