I know that when I send my kid to school, once he’s in those doors and school has started, he’s in a safe environment. —Brenda Raccuia
BOUNTIFUL — Parents concerned about safety at Bountiful Elementary School raised more than $10,000 for security upgrades.
Teacher Lindy Crismer has worked at Bountiful Elementary for 28 years and said she advocated for upgrades for much of that time.
"For a long time, it really concerned me that we have seven or eight exterior doors and none of them were locked," she said. "About two principals ago, we had an incident where a child made some threats to some teachers, and at that time none of the doors were locked."
Crismer didn't feel like many people took the situation seriously.
"I know people think in Bountiful, Utah, nothing is ever going to happen. But you talk to the police and they’ll tell you it will,” she said. “It’s not if, but when. I’ve just always wanted to be proactive."
During the past school year, most of the exterior doors were locked. The front doors remained open to the public.
"We had a sign out in the hallway that said, "Visitors please check in at the office' and every day you could watch people walk right by the sign and never check in," Crismer said. "Up until this point it’s been OK, but you never know."
Parent Brenda Raccuia's first-grader attends Bountiful Elementary. She also shared concerns over his safety.
"I just felt like I was tired of hearing news stories where children had either been abducted or taken or blown apart," Raccuia said. "I was tired of not having that safety. I recognized that I could walk into that school at any time and no one knew I was there."
Raccuia has a background in security. She works on the safety committee at Mountain West Surgical Center and on the Emergency Preparedness Board at Lakeview Hospital. When the principal asked her to head the school's Parent Teacher Association, she saw an opportunity.
She contacted the school board and local police chief and then started fundraising. Raccuia said many parents initially resisted the idea that more security was needed.
Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross sided with Raccuia. Ross said one of the problems with older school buildings is they were built for access, not security.
"We live off of 'this will never happen to me' attitudes. But we know every time we turn on the news that it happens to somebody," Ross said.
Raccuia organized a fundraising walk, courted corporate sponsors and engaged parents and children in the effort.
"The kids went out and got pledges and donations and walked their hearts out at our walk-a-thon," she said.
It took roughly $10,500 to update the school's security. The upgrades involved blowing a hole through an interior wall, fitting all exterior doors with key-card readers and installing a push-button fail-safe.
Now, unlocked doors lead visitors straight to Bountiful Elementary's front desk. Staff members also have the ability to lock down the whole school with a single button.
Raccuia said she now finally feels her kids are safe.
"I know that when I send my kid to school, once he’s in those doors and school has started, he’s in a safe environment," she said.
Ross also said other schools in the area are making upgrades and training teachers and students about how they should react in active-shooter scenarios.