After Sandy Hook, Batavia Institutes New Security System
A question of cost: St. Charles School District 303 is looking at a pricey list of improvements, from classroom door locks to better camera coverage at high schools to panic buttons, recommended in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, CT.
The massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in mid-December reverberated around the country as parents and educators entertained the awful question: Could it happen here?
In response, local school districts such as Batavia and St. Charles are taking more steps than ever before to keep students safe.
Batavia Public Schools has a new set of security procedures at its elementary buildings.
The district installed a new visitor tracking system at all six of its elementary schools. The V-Soft Visitor Management System is currently used to track visitors at Rotolo Middle School and Batavia High School. It provides an effective way to help schools keep undesirable individuals out while tracking visitors who are allowed in.
“Children’s safety is the number one driving force behind all of our security services, and the purpose of this new system is to better monitor the visitors coming into the school district, thereby providing enhanced protection for our students and staff,” said Dr. Jack Barshinger, Batavia's outgoing superintendent.
As of Feb. 19, visitors at all BPS101 schools must present a driver's license or other approved identification card at the school's office. The identification will then be cross-referenced with a database of sex offenders throughout the United States. Once cleared, the individual will be issued a visitor badge, which must be visibly worn while in school and returned to the school office upon leaving. If a potential threat is identified, the system will instantly alert designated officials, such as administrators and law enforcement.
“Initial reports from our schools indicate that visitors are receptive to the new check-in procedures,” Barshinger said about the implementation process. “Given local and national concerns for student safety, most people understand and appreciate the need to take additional measures to protect our students.”
St. Charles Talks Safety
Within days of the deadly rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, St. Charles School Superintendent Donald Schlomann initiated a plan to assess security concerns at all the schools in Community Unit School District 303.
On Thursday evening, the District 303 Board of Education’s Business Services Committee got a first look at a laundry list of steps the district can take to improve security at its school.
Many of the items, which carry a total price tag of $353,700, were recommended by school principals, said John Baird, assistant superintendent for operations. But many also reflect the concerns raised by staff and parents, he added.
The greatest single expense on the list, Baird said, also was the top priority identified during the district’s assessment: intruder function locks that can be locked from inside the classroom and require a key to open.
That one item carries a price tag of $189,000 for more than 600 classroom doors that can be locked now — but which require the teacher to step into the hallway and use a key to lock the doors. That potentially puts educators in the line of fire in a Sandy Hook-type of situation. Baird said that 350 of the doors requiring the locks are in the district’s two high schools, with the rest being at the other schools.
No. 2 on the list, Baird said, is considerably less pricey — panic buttons that could be activated by school district personnel that would be akin to fire alarms, except they would be a direct alarm to the St. Charles Police Department. Panic buttons are quicker than a phone, and Baird said all the district’s schools could be equipped with the devices for just $5,000.
No. 3 would cost $39,000 spread over 16 sites and would allow staffers to dial directly into the intercom system to make emergency announcements, Baird said. Right now, the intercom systems in the schools can be accessed only in each school’s central office, which is inefficient if a warning needs to be made quickly. If a staffer looking out a back door or window saw a funnel cloud, for example, he or she would have to run to the central office to have a warning announced. Using a district phone to dial into the intercom would allow an immediate warning throughout the school.
In conjunction with this option, the administration is proposing replacing the intercom system at one school at a cost of $32,300.
The final item on the list is the installation of 43 security cameras — 17 at the high schools and 26 high school music room cameras — at a cost of $88,400.
Baird said 17 of the cameras are intended to address blind spots not currently in camera range at the district’s two high schools.
Schlomann said the music room cameras will improve safety and security in rooms where teachers often work one-on-one with students.
“It is big brother,” Schlomann said, but needed to serve as deterrents to false claims of misconduct, as well as to provide security in areas where valuable musical instruments and computer equipment is stored.
Brad Cauffman, assistant superintendent for business services/CFO, said the security measures are not budgeted, but that the administration could scrutinize for priorities and availability of funds.
Committee members advanced the measure to the Board of Education for formal approval. The administration said the security improvements could be in place by the start of school next fall.
Information about Batavia's new security system was courtesy Batavia Public Schools.
Want to Stay Up on School, Crime and Breaking News in and Around Batavia?
Click the "Keep Me Posted" button below this text.