Host of Security Measures Ushers in 'New Normal' at Columbine

This is the first in a three-part series on the start of classes at Columbine High School, where 13 people were killed by two students at the end of the 1998-99 school year.

Students who report for the first day of class at Columbine High School next week will find that administrators and the community have worked hard to restore a sense of normalcy. Yet in many ways, things won't quite be the same.

"Everyone knows there's going to be a 'new normal' at Columbine. There's no getting around that," said Steve Schweitzberger, a parent of one returning student.

Part of that "new normal" will be a series of added security measures designed to help parents, teachers and students feel more at ease in the aftermath of the April 20 shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead. Among the new policies informally approved on Monday evening by school board members is a requirement that students and teachers wear identification badges at all times.

"Students were required to carry IDs in the past," explained Marilyn Saltzman, the spokesperson for the Jefferson County school district. "This decision just says they now have to wear them and show them."

Although identification badges clearly would not have stopped Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from carrying out their assault at Columbine, for some parents, the badges add an extra sense of security. Students at all secondary schools in the Littleton, Colo. region will be required to wear them.

"As a parent I want to know that students and staff belong there," Kelly Daniel told the Denver Post at Monday's meeting.

For Columbine senior Jami Roubidoux, however, being required to wear I.D. is more strange than comforting.

"My dad has to wear a badge to go into work for security reasons," she said. "But it just seems odd that you'd have to do that for school, too."

Columbine's physical plant has been revamped with new security features, including new lighting. Saltzman explained the increased brightness may help students feel more safe, and will also facilitate the operation of 12 new video surveillance cameras.

Getting into the school building itself will also be more difficult. Teachers wanting to enter the school after hours will need to use card keys to open doors. And among the 30 entrances to the sprawling school grounds, only five will be unlocked from the outside. The other 25 have been redesigned so that people may only exit through them.

To ensure fast access to help, school board members have approved installing panic alarm buttons in the main offices of all area high schools. When pushed, these buttons would send an alert signal directly to local police stations. The district is also considering adding telephone hot lines throughout the schools so that a student in trouble can quickly call for help.

These features, however, do not come without a price. And the community is still debating one of the most expensive measures of adding extra security guards to patrol school grounds. Saltzman said the district may hire five armed security guards, to ensure that two to three guards would patrol the school at all times. When Klebold and Harris launched their rampage, there was only one armed security guard on duty at the school.

The board has also suggested adding unarmed campus supervisors who would, in Saltzman's words, "just be there to keep an eye on things." Employing the additional guards and supervisors at schools in the district could cost up to $1.2 million a year in additional funding.

For some parents, cost isn't the only concern. They worry that too much emphasis on security could leave students feeling spooked.

"I won't send my daughter to a school that requires armed guards and bars to keep the kids safe," said Schweitzberger. "You shouldn't feel like you have to go from a locked-down house to a locked-down car to a locked-down school."

Some students said they may never feel quite at ease again at Columbine High. Senior Roubidoux realized how shaken some of her classmates remain when she went with other students last May to pick up her textbooks at neighboring Chatfield High School.

Roubidoux accidentally dropped her yearbook on the floor, it made a loud noise, and a girl who had been in Columbine High School's library when Harris and Klebold killed 10 students, immediately jumped and put her head down on her desk.

"That was in a completely different school where you had to have ID, all the exits were blocked. There was security all over the place," she said. "It was that safe and she still jumped."

Tomorrow, Part 2 of our series looks at the rise of home schooling in the wake of increased random school violence. Also tune in to Fox News Channel's coverage of the issues affecting students at Columbine, and across the country.