ASPEN - Aspen's largest child care center has tightened down its security and the Aspen public schools are discussing whether changes are necessary at their campus in the wake of the Dec. 14 school shootings in Connecticut.
"We have been talking about security for years, and there were always mixed feelings about how we should handle things at the Yellow Brick. But after (Dec. 14), that conversation pretty much changed for everybody," said Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First, the city of Aspen's child care arm. "The safety of our children is our highest concern."
According to Ritter, security at the Yellow Brick Building - which is home to the Early Learning Center, Mare's Playgroup and Aspen Mountain Tots - was tightened down last week. Namely, access to the building is now limited to one main entrance; previously, classrooms could be accessed from separate exterior doors.
"This is an interim measure; we are now seeking input on what is available to us and what is the best course of action for the future," Ritter said, adding that Kids First is leading the conversation about potential security changes and is including the child care center's administrators, parents, law enforcements in the discussion. "This tragedy has made us all more aware."
On Dec. 14, a lone gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Newton, Conn., killing 20 children, six adults and himself. It is a tragedy that has rocked the nation, including the Aspen community.
At the Aspen public schools' Maroon Creek campus, law enforcement presence increased in the days following the shootings, and on Wednesday, the Aspen School District's Crisis Response Team met to discuss what, if any, short- and long-term changes need to be made.
"We discovered there are a handful of minor items that needed to be addressed immediately, such as keeping all doors locked except the front doors during the instructional day, repairing door latches, increasing the number of walkie-talkies, purchasing blinds for certain windows and repairing surveillance cameras," Superintendent John Maloy said. He said all these issues will be addressed over the holiday break, which begins Monday.
Also at the school safety meeting, building administrators and school resource officers discussed what measures other schools have implemented that would make the Aspen schools more secure or feel more secure.
"Several items were discussed, and it was agreed that most of these items would change current school practices as well as potentially change the culture of our schools," Maloy said, referring to things such as video cameras at school entrances, key cards for entry and door locks that would be triggered by office personnel to admit a visitor.
He said the Crisis Response Team will now investigate the necessity of these suggestions and the costs associated with them. The Board of Education also will be brought into the conversation.