SAN RAMON VALLEY -- Planning new fences, secure entry points and standardized emergency procedures, the San Ramon Valley school district is ramping up security.

Although some question whether the new measures might be going too far, the move comes in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that claimed 27 lives in a December shooting spree in Newtown, Conn.

Money from the Measure D school facilities bond passed by district voters in November will pay for some of the security enhancements, district spokesman Terry Koehne said.

A districtwide safety committee has been formed with members representing teachers, parents, school administrators, the San Ramon Valley Fire Department and the San Ramon and Danville police departments. The committee has met twice since the start of the year.

"We're already doing a lot on safety," said district Superintendent Mary Shelton. "We had talked about having a districtwide safety committee before what happened in Connecticut. That kind of gave it the impetus to get it fully staffed and get it going."

Although everyone is concerned about security, Kathy Dillingham, a longtime teacher in the district who teaches at Venture School, said she is among those concerned that the pendulum might swing too far toward security and a sense of community could be lost.

"Many teachers throughout the district are appalled with the idea of fencing around all the campuses," she said.

Koehne emphasized that the district is looking at minimum standards and that there are no plans for such things as metal detectors. He said the district is taking a careful look at what is needed.


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"We are auditing every site from a facilities standpoint," he said. "Our newer schools were designed for security. Most of our older schools are more wide open by nature. It was just how schools were designed, with many entry points to the campus."

There are 35 schools in the district and more than 30,000 students. The district has a mix of new schools built within the last 10 years and schools well over 50 years old.

Koehne said the newer schools in Dougherty Valley, such as Quail Run Elementary School and Dougherty Valley High School, built after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, have fencing that funnels visitors to entry points.

But older schools, such as San Ramon Valley, Monte Vista and California high schools, have open campuses with many access points.

All district classrooms already have "Columbine locks" that allow teachers to lock their classrooms from the inside in the event of an emergency.

"The intention is to put in a minimum standard of interior campus security that is more reflective of the design of our newer schools," he said. "We want to provide a minimum standard with fencing and gating. We don't want visitors to enter through various entry ways so we have a better handle of the people who are on our campuses."

Danville police Chief Steve Simpkins said police are playing an advisory role on the safety committee.

He said his department conducted a large scale "active shooter" drill at San Ramon Valley High in the summer of 2011 and another drill is planned for this summer.

Armed school resource officers have been assigned to the district's high schools for years, he added.

"We're very lucky to have them," Simpkins said. "I look at them as much more than security. They are more of a mentor and role model who happens to have a gun."

Ann Dodson, principal of Tassajara Hills Elementary School, said she feels good about district security.

"We do a lot of staff training," she said. "We train with the parents. We drill every month."

Although she has concerns about fencing, Dillingham said she agrees with standardizing the district's emergency procedures and with other security measures being implemented.

"We want to make our children and our parents and everybody at our schools feel safe, but to me putting fences all around because of what happened at Sandy Hook is not the answer, because it didn't help there," she said.

"Sandy Hook affected everyone I know. You do realize you are vulnerable. But you just have to carry on, I guess."

Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.