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Schools prepare for Oly security

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If you plan to visit a school a few weeks from now, you might end up tugging on a locked door.

Jordan and Granite school districts are locking all school doors except the front entrance as a security precaution during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Murray schools near busy streets will do the same. Granite high schools may have more than one door open, but they will be guarded by PTA volunteers.

Salt Lake City School District has discussed doing the same, but will leave the decision up to schools, spokesman Jason Olsen said.

The precautions are not considered a lockdown. Lockdown, evoked in emergencies, means no one can get in or out of the building.

Jordan spokeswoman Melinda Colton says locked doors will be inconvenient for students and teachers in portables because they'll have to walk around to the front to get into the main building. But she says the measures are necessary.

"It's like this huge party you're throwing, and you send all these invitations out and you don't know how many are coming. We don't know what to expect," Colton said. "There are going to be so many visitors in the valley, we think that's a good precaution to take."

The Olympics are expected to draw 70,000 visitors to the Wasatch Front every day between Feb. 8 and 17. Salt Lake City's Washington Elementary and West High schools will close the entire 17 days; Kearns High and Beehive Elementary in Granite, which are adjacent to the speedskating oval, will close for part of the time. The moves followed community concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At schools that remain open, visitors will have to check in at the front office, as is current state law, and receive a visitor pass.

Police will be in every Granite high school and select junior high schools. They also will be dispatched to select Murray schools, particularly Hillcrest Junior High, which is near a practice ice sheet, Murray Superintendent Richard Tranter said.

All Granite teachers and administrators will wear photo ID badges, district spokeswoman Michele Bartmess said. Junior high and high school students will have to carry student IDs, and present them on demand. PTA volunteers will guard doors and check IDs.

Murray and Salt Lake City school districts have teamed with their respective police departments to talk to teachers and principals about emergency procedures.

Every Salt Lake school has emergency preparedness plans, which cover anything from natural disasters to hazardous material spills. Police have reviewed the plans and can access district two-way radios. SWAT leaders have toured the schools to familiarize themselves with the buildings.

Granite schools also are communicating emergency response plans with district bosses and parents.

"We just wanted to assure the parents we have a plan," Bartmess said.

E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com