Some Oklahoma City classrooms are missing locks as construction workers renovate schools throughout the district, and teachers say they worry for the safety of students.
“If a shooter would come through the door, my classroom would be the first one hit,” said one English teacher. “My job is to protect the kids. I'm supposed to. I can't do that if my door doesn't lock.”
At least two schools have multiple classrooms without proper locks.
District officials are working to fix the problem as quickly as possible, said Jim Burkey, chief operations officer for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
At least one school was supposed to have been updated by Thursday, he said.
A woman who teaches math to special education students said other classrooms at her school are missing locks altogether.
“It's very unsafe,” said one middle school math teacher. “It's scary.”
She said that she and others were hopeful that repairs would be made during Christmas break, especially considering the Connecticut shooting in December. Nothing changed, she said.
“We keep asking, ‘What do we do? What do we do? If someone came in and did something like that, what do we do?'” she said. “Where do we take our kids?' We can't lock the room. Anybody can walk in.”
Officials also are looking at how to prevent the problem in the future, Burkey said.
Trouble has arisen after contractors complete their work and turn the building back over to the district, Burkey said. Construction workers use temporary locks so they can get in and out of classrooms as needed. When contractors leave, the district is responsible for replacing the temporary construction locks with new locks.
But hiccups happen, Burkey said. Some locks aren't delivered on time. Some don't fit. So classrooms are left with the wrong locks or without locks altogether.
Burkey said officials are working to prevent that from happening by taking the following steps:
• Instead of allowing contractors to throw away old locks, the district will hold on to the hardware in case new hardware isn't available or doesn't come in on time. “We'll at least have something to install,” Burkey said. Then, when the new, correct locks arrive, the old ones can be ditched.
• By stockpiling a variety of old locks and keeping them on hand, maintenance workers will have access to hardware that can be installed in a pinch.
• Doors that lock from inside are the new standard for schools, said Scott Vrooman, owner and principal architect at TriArch, a firm based in Tulsa that has designed schools across the state. It's also a cheap way to improve security on older buildings, he said.
“What you want to do with architecture is delay the predator, make it harder to get in the door,” Vrooman said. “The No. 1 thing is the locks on the inside of the doors. It's the lowest-budget item with the highest rate of return.”