Saranac Lake schools will be locked during classes

SARANAC LAKE – The Saranac Lake Central School District will tighten security at its buildings when kids return to classes next month.

“All of our buildings will be locked this year, so access is through a call button,” said new district Superintendent Diane Fox. “You’ll make a call into the main office and then will be let in and asked to come to the main office at that point.”

In March, school officials implemented new security measures in the wake of the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn. Locking more doors, installing new swipe-card security systems and video cameras, and staff training were some of the measures that took effect when students returned from spring break.

But some school doors, like the entrance to the district office at the high school, remained open during the day or at certain times of the day. That will change on the first day of school, Sept. 5, which will also be the first full-school-day-long lockdown.

“This is certainly being done all across the country,” Fox said. “It’s just an effort to keep our students and our faculty in as safe an environment as possible.”

Fox said she understands that it will probably take some time for parents who are used to coming into school buildings to adjust to the change.

“It’s new for our staff, too,” she said. “Our staff (who will use swipe cards to get into the buildings) is getting used to it. Our staff who will be answering the call buzzer is getting used to it. We think we have a good plan on paper. Each building will be a little different, but we’ll try to get the plan out to all our families quickly with that first few days of school.

“We’ll ask our families to bear with us a little bit because chances are what looks good on paper and what really happens in real life will be a little different. We may need to make some adjustments as we go. We certainly don’t want to make it difficult for our families who need to be here to be here.”

Although the district will be locking the door to its office at the high school, residents who want to pay their school taxes in person will have another option. The district has worked out an arrangement with the town of Harrietstown that allows people to pay school taxes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the town clerk’s office in the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.

“They’re willing to do it for us for a small fee, and we’re happy to have them do it,” Dan Bower, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said at Wednesday night’s school board meeting. “We won’t be accepting in-person payments at the school because we’re going to be locked all the time.”

In addition to the new security measures, state police Sgt. Chad Niles delivered a school safety presentation to the district’s administrators and supervisors Wednesday.

“He presented to us on school safety in the event of an intruder,” Fox said. “He gave us lots of facts and figures and good suggestions about what to do in our buildings to prepare for that, then what to do in an actual situation.”

Niles will back in September to meet with school staff “to talk about what they can do in their classrooms and in whatever their capacity is they work in here to help maintain a safe campus,” Fox said.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or