Liz Hersher used to be able to walk directly to her child's classroom to deliver snacks or drop off a forgotten backpack.
But now, the PTO president of Massillon Intermediate School said she is routed right to the office, and she's not allowed to take anything down the hallway.
Some people don't like the extra steps, Hersher said, but they don't bother her.
"I feel like I can go to work and I don't have to worry about whether or not my child is safe," she said.
In talking about safety changes made to schools in recent years, multiple superintendents mentioned the addition of cameras, buzzer systems and locked doors that visitors encounter when trying to enter schools — shifts intended to keep students and staff protected against outside threats.
Following the Newtown massacre, North Canton City Schools held a town hall meeting to discuss safety in the district. Several hundred people showed up, Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said.
One idea generated during the session was to offer training for staff and students about how to handle an active shooter. The district also has purchased equipment to prep classrooms in the event of a lockdown. The supplies include a "go bucket," which looks like a five-gallon paint container with a toilet seat and holds a blanket, water and snacks, and a fire extinguisher — which can also be used as a weapon, Hartenstein said.
The district also secured its facilities.
Joanna Dray, a mother of three North Canton City Schools students, said she's noticed the buildings aren't as easy to access anymore.
As a school volunteer, she said she had to retrain herself, which she said was "kind of a hassle."
But as a parent, she said, "I appreciate the fact that the school takes it seriously."
Canton Local Schools is preparing to build a new high school, and Kim Redmond, superintendent of Canton Local Schools, said she feels fortunate her district has the opportunity to design the facility using lessons learned from the Sandy Hook shooting. Voters passed a bond issue in November, the primary purpose of which was to fund the building project. The process is just beginning, Redmond said, but some of what the district will consider is whether the floor plan makes sense from a safety perspective.
The money from the bonds will also allow the district to retrofit existing buildings with security features, such as double entrances.
Across the county, superintendents also meet together to swap ideas about how to make schools safer and to discuss how they can fund new security measures.
Several school officials said safety has become the No. 1 priority.
"If our kids don't feel safe, they're not going to learn," Minerva Local School Superintendent Joe Chaddock said.
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The Stark County Sheriff's Office offers ALICE training, a safety program that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
Deputy Melissa Bogunovich, who has given presentations to school staff members across the county, said the program addresses the fact that hiding in a corner if there's a shooter in a school is no longer the best option.
Some people find the training controversial because it advocates fighting the attacker — sometimes by throwing things at the person. Bogunovich said she's familiar with that argument. She also knows, though, that it might take law enforcement several minutes to arrive at the scene of an emergency.
"We're giving the teachers and staff tools to survive," she said.
North Canton City Schools hasn't only taught staff members the ALICE method — students learned, too. The older kids got the full training, while younger children got a more basic safety lesson about topics such as stranger danger, Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said.
The decision to include students in the training came out of discussions with the city's police chief. Hartenstein said the primary goal was to make sure students were able to react quickly.
"Our concern was we didn't want kids to panic," he said.
About this report
This is the third in a three-part series looking at school safety in Stark County. Read all three parts now on CantonRep.com.