Just days after a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members at a school in Connecticut, Premier Dalton McGuinty was at a North York school to announce a locked-door policy for elementary schools in Ontario.
“In the aftermath of that tragic event that unfolded in the U.S., I think there is am important question we have to ask ourselves. Are we taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of our kids at school?” McGuinty told a press conference Thursday Dec. 20 in the library of St. Fidelis Catholic Elementary school in the area of Keele Street and Hwy. 401.
The province will spend $10 million for elementary schools to install security devices such as video cameras and buzzers to let visitors in. All elementary schools in the province must have in place by next September a locked-door policy that will mean doors to schools are locked while children are in class, McGuinty said.
“Now, we can’t, neither would we attempt to, turn our elementary schools into fortresses. We are not going to brick up these windows. That would be unreasonable,” he said. “I think it (the locked door policy) is an appropriate and reasonable response in keeping with what weighs heavily on the minds of parents.”
In 2005, the province provided similar $3 million in funding for elementary schools to install security measures if the front doors could not be seen from the office. About 850 schools took advantage of the program. There are about 4,000 elementary schools in Ontario and McGuinty said he now wants all of them to be eligible for funding.
McGuinty said the government is in a constant process of improving safety measures at schools. But he was clearly moved to beef up security measures following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14.
“What that event south of the border did was raise the question in our own minds as a government. Have we, in fact, taken all reasonable steps to protect the safety and wellbeing or our kids in school?” McGuinty said.
Before the press conference, McGuinty visited teacher Luciana Di Nizio’s Grade 2 class, where he joined the children in making tinfoil Christmas tree ornaments. He asked the youngsters what they do to be nice during the year.
“Help my sister get dressed,” one student said. “Help my mom,” said another. “Roast a chicken,” a third chimed in. Student Mike Tesi then asked McGuinty if he has been naughty or nice this year. “Mostly nice. Depends who you ask,” a smiling McGuinty answered.