Newtown tragedy raises questions about the strength of the windows at PBC schools

Do PBC school windows need upgrading?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Lloyd Pender earns his living with glass.

His life is his two children, that's why he couldn't believe it when so many children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary last week.

"I just thought of my kids being in that situation," Pender said. "It was horrible, horrible feeling."

Police say the gunman broke the glass in the door at Sandy Hook Elementary to get inside.

Many Palm Beach County schools have glass on their doors and as Sasser's Glass Works Inc. employees showed us, most break as easy as the hit of a crow bar. 

"It's nothing," Pender said about how easy it is to break tempered glass. "You're right in. Wherever you want to go."

Tempered glass is much more than laminated impact glass.

In 2002, the Florida Building Code added requirements for hurricane protection using impact glass or shutters, according to the Palm Beach County School district.

The school district uses impact glass in lieu of shutters, they said.

"It's a lot thicker," Pender said about impact glass compared to tempered glass.

Pender said the impact glass has a polycarbonate piece to separate two slabs of glass.

Palm Beach County Schools said 118 of 178 schools use the thinner tempered glass.

The other 60 have the thicker, laminated impact glass.

Sasser's Glass Works employees couldn't bust through the impact glass even after hitting it more than a dozen times with a crow bar.

"We're talking the difference between five seconds and fifteen minutes," Pender said about the time difference it takes to break into the tempered glass compared to the impact glass. "That's a  a lot of time. You have a lot of time to react rather than that first panic, shock."

Pender said impact glass won't stop a bullet from getting through it.

However, it will slow the intruder down.

"The bullet is going to go through, but in order to get your body through it it's going to take you more than one shot," he said.

Considering his 7-year-old son goes to one of the older schools that may be equipped with tempered glass, he believes Newtown's tragedy should have the county upgrading all schools to laminated impact windows.

He knows it's costly, but he said it could save lives.

"You can't replace your kids," Pender said. "You can replace windows."

Palm Beach County schools estimates the upgrade would cost about $700,000 for elementary schools and $1.8 million for middle and high schools.

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