Thursday was the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and six adults were killed.

That lesson was not lost on Missoula school administrators at the time, and as they planned for the future.

MCPS Communications Director Hatton Littman said this week that heightened security at Missoula public schools took on new meaning with then Superintendent Alex Apostle.

“Dr. Apostle was deeply concerned, and started a facilities safety and security committee,” Littman said. “That committee made recommendations for physical safety in our buildings, as well as procedures that we could do to keep kids safe, and that work has been carried out with help of the passage of our bond in 2014.”

Littman said several schools now have more secure entrances.

“Paxson, Rattlesnake, Lowell and Franklin elementary schools now have newly configured entryways, and every new school that is undergoing renovation or construction will receive the same treatment,” she said. “Now, our new entryways include a welcoming area for guests. They can sign in and be welcomed by the principal or the secretary on duty, and then there’s a set of locked security doors in between that front area and the classrooms.”

Littman said even further security protocols are planned.

"All of our buildings will get card-key access systems that will allow staff to enter and exit the buildings with the security card key," she said. "As each building is completed, that new system will also be installed. We're also installing security camera systems in all our buildings."

Littman said the construction and renovations began in the spring of 2016 and the district hopes to have all the construction completed, including the new Jeannette Rankin Elementary School, by the end of 2020.

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