Districts across Chicagoland ramping up security for start of school year

In a FOX 32 special report: securing our schools and trying to make sure that people with weapons cannot get in.

Districts across Chicagoland are starting the year with ramped up security, using new tools to prevent tragedies and keep kids safe.

From Parkland to Sandy Hook to Dixon close to home, the need to protect students from mass shootings is at a critical point. FOX 32 wanted to know how local schools are working to protect kids, so we contacted about a dozen of them. None wanted to be identified, but they all had similar responses -- they're stepping up security, and some even showed us how they're doing it.

“To be quite candid, and as we can see, it can happen anywhere,” said security expert Mike Verden.

We took our footage from a few schools to Verden to get his perspective on whether the changes are enough.

“It does hit home, and our world is changing. And we need to change with it,” Verden said.

Outside the buildings, we found many schools locking all the doors, which Verden says is crucial.

“The rule of thumb is this: an entrance is called an access point, and security is all about access control,” Verden said.

One school installed a new video entry system, that has a camera and intercom, alerting school staff of a visitor.

Another new measure is more cameras outside, including in the parking lots.

“It's real time monitoring the situation,” Verden said.

Inside, one school has a holding area -- or vestibule.

“The industry term for that is called a mantrap, meaning that, even if you get through the first door, you don't get through the second,” Verden said.

The big debate across the country when it comes to school security is armed guards, which Verden supports.

“We need to stay ahead of the curve instead of behind the curve, if that means armed security, if that means doing assessments, if that means like having a hard room inside a classroom, then so be it,” Verden said.

And while we didn't talk to schools with so-called hard rooms, many are making more changes inside. Some local schools are installing panic buttons, and changing the way they do "active shooter" drills – sometimes encouraging kids to run.

“It's all about trying to learn from history, and trying to better protect our children,” Verden said.