CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw had hoped that all of the county's teachers would be able to lock their doors from inside the classroom by the time students returned from Christmas break.
But that's not going to happen.
In more than 30 of the county's schools, teachers have to open their classroom door and lock it from the outside in order to secure their classrooms, according to the Kanawha County Schools maintenance department.
Maintenance Director Terry Hollandsworth said that, next week, 11 more schools will have the appropriate locking devices installed, but locks for 20-some schools have yet to be purchased.
"We've been installing these for a while now. As grant money comes in, we buy the locks and install them as soon as we can," he said. "For the schools whose locks have not been purchased yet, they can still lock their doors from the hallway and leave it locked.
"It's not like teachers have no way of securing their classrooms," he said. "That way, anyone that comes up will have to knock if they want in."
Hollandsworth said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has been "very supportive" in providing grant money for such safety precautions, and school administrators have moved safety to the forefront since the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Every Kanawha County school building has a card-access entrance installed that allows school employees to enter by swiping their badge and requires other visitors to buzz in to the front office in order to enter the building, Hollandsworth said.
In addition, Kanawha County schools now have machines to scan visitors' driver's licenses to check their criminal background. Schools can even check visitors' IDs before they enter the building, Hollandsworth said.
"We've always kept security of our buildings a high priority," he said, "and will continue to do so well into the future."
Thaw said installing the locks on classroom doors is a "no-brainer" and should be at the top of the county's "to-do list."
"Before the children go back to school, this has to be fixed. We're not going to let this go. Only a fool would wait to fix this in the environment we're in now," Thaw said. "When people are talking about putting armed guards in schools, you better at least lock them up first."
The maintenance department submitted a plan for the lock installations last week that is awaiting Superintendent Ron Duerring's approval, Hollandsworth said Friday.
Thaw said most of the schools have locks already, but officials are re-evaluating other aspects of the county's safety plan.