Critic: School Numbering Job Only Half Done


(Thursday, July 12, 2007 3:56 PM EDT)

Arlington Public Schools recently numbered the entrances at all the county's schools to help in emergency situations and orient the public with school layouts.

But the fact that the numbers, in some cases, are only on the exterior of the building has provoked some concern.

“A door has two sides. If someone is injured inside, someone will need to go outside to look at the number,” civic activist Robert Atkins said at a recent County Board meeting.

Numbering the inside of the entrances is something “even a fifth-grader would know [to do],” Atkins said.

Arlington Public Schools worked with the county government's Office of Emergency Management on the project. The outdoor signs were installed to aid those responding in an emergency, as well as help guide community members to the best entrances for meetings and events.

The numbering begins with "1" at each building's main entrance, and proceeds clockwise around the facility.

“We were working collaboratively with the police to be able to have those numbers outside the building,” said Meg Tuccillo, the school system's assistant superintendent for administrative services. “If there is a break-in in the middle of the night, the numbers are good for them to know. That was our immediate concern.”

School officials said that interior numbers have been posted "for all major doors" at all public schools in the county, as well as some other doors at schools.

Although not every door has an interior number, each classroom has a map of the building with the exit doors marked, school officials said.

“If there is an emergency in the school, teachers have evacuation plans. They know which door to go to,” said Frank Bellavia, a spokesman for the Arlington school system. “If something happens in the school, a teacher or school administrator would tell 911 which door to go to.”

At the County Board meeting, Atkins said he believes “it is time for action.”

The school system is open to the suggestion of finishing up the process of inside numbering.

“As we look at more complete security issues, having numbers posted on the inside is part of the long-term conversation,” Tuccillo said.

Scott McCaffrey contributed to this story.

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