PARKERSBURG - The lessons of Columbine can be seen throughout Wood County Schools.
Officials said in the 10 years since 12 students and a teacher were murdered and many others wounded by two students in a Colorado high school, security measures have increased significantly in area schools.
"I think Columbine had the biggest influence on school security of any event that I can recall," said Wood County Schools Superintendent Bill Niday.
"The changes we've made over the past 10 years have been significant."
Niday was principal at then-Blennerhassett Junior High School when reports from Colorado began coming in through the national media.
"The most chilling thing I remember was seeing the aerial shots of Columbine," he said. "It looked just like an aerial shot of Blennerhassett."
Another, more local event was the explosion of the Shell Chemical plant in May 1994 in Belpre. Many local schools did not know whether to evacuate students or keep them in place, leading to the development of better communication with first-responders and a color-coded emergency system, which told officials whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place.
Columbine helped further define the practices, including building lockdowns and multiple evacuation locations for students and staff.
"Before Columbine, I'd never even heard of a lockdown," Niday said. "Now we drill at least annually."
Niday said another biproduct of the two crisis was a greater cooperation between police and emergency responders and the school system. Now the groups share plans and resources to plan for possible scenarios, prevent intrusions and respond more quickly. Responders regularly review maps of the district's 30 facilities and periodically stage practice scenarios within schools.
Some of the other security upgrades include:
Buzz-in systems for all schools, including doors that can be remotely locked and camera systems to identify visitors before they enter a building.
Digital camera systems inside and outside of schools. These systems are upgraded and expanded as funding becomes available.
More extensive background checks on those who work with students. "We do so many more background checks than we used to," Niday said.
Students are prohibited from carrying backpacks inside of the district's high schools. "That was a direct result of Columbine and has generated some debate among students and in the community," Niday said.
Niday said the focus over the last 10 years has shifted from the buildings to the occupants.
"You used to spend money to detect when a school was broken into," he said. "Now you are trying to protect the people in the building, which are the most valuable thing we have."