City, County Plan Secure Entrances As Schools’ First Line Of Defense
Posted: January 18, 2013
Sonny Rodriguez, Keister Elementary School homeschool liaison, greets people entering the school Thursday morning. Teachers are serving rotating shifts as the school’s greeter until a full-time employee is hired for the job next week. When “secure vestibule entrances” are installed, the job is likely to become obsolete. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Rockingham County Schools is planning to install the entryways at the eight division schools that don’t yet have them, and the Harrisonburg City School Board approved two motions Tuesday related to the entrances.
The first motion was to ask Harrisonburg City Council for money to pursue putting secure entrances in four schools and the second motion was to go out to bid on the vestibules.
Both were unanimously approved by the board.
The entrances, which filter visitors straight into a school’s main office, are not a measure to deter unpredictable or extreme incidents such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said Harrisonburg Superintendent Scott Kizner. Still, Kizner said, they are a smart security investment and a longtime division need.
“These are designed for people who follow the rules and people who need to check into the office and get the right credentialing,” he said. “The number one thing that the research and best practices [for school safety] and common sense [shows you] is you have to know who is in your building.”
The $240,000 fix for the city will bring Keister, Waterman, Stone Spring and Spotswood elementary schools and Thomas Harrison Middle School up to par with the division’s three newest buildings already outfitted with the feature — Harrisonburg High School, Skyline Middle School and Smithland Elementary School.
A feasibility study by Moseley Architects provided the board with drawings and costs related to reconfiguring entry points at the five schools. The drawings also include plans for a video surveillance display in the main office, a panic button that alerts the building of a lockdown and calls 911, and a buzzer system.
“So, whenever you enter that vestibule, you will actually have to be buzzed into the main office,” said Craig Mackail, the division’s executive director of maintenance, operations and community outreach, who presented the study Thursday to administrators.
In the meantime, “greeters” have been put in place at the schools to direct visitors to the main office to sign in.
The greeters will likely be obsolete once the entrances are created, Kizner said.
The division will go out to bid on the project between March 20 and April 9 and aim to have the entrances completed by the time school starts next school year in August.
“This to us is a basic,” Kizner said. “If it was good enough for the new buildings in 2005, I just believe those five other schools should have that level of security.”
Mackail also gave details about other safety measures in the division’s schools, including an increase in lockdown drills, and the formation of a superintendent’s advisory committee comprising law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, as well as parents and others, to discuss school safety.
Rockingham County Schools gave a rundown at the first meeting of its new safety task force at a Rockingham County School Board meeting Monday in Broadway.
The ad hoc committee is charged with studying school safety and the feasibility of hiring someone within the division to oversee security.
The group was educated during its meeting on Jan. 10 on safety practices already in place in the county, findings of a safety audit and current challenges for the division.
Information also was disseminated on a bill moving in the House of Delegates sponsored by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, that would require every school board in Virginia to designate at least one person who could carry a concealed handgun on school property.
It also requires some employees, school volunteers who have a concealed-carry permit and some retired law enforcement officers to be certified and trained in storage, use and handling of a concealed handgun.
Other legislation regarding school safety continues to surface in the 2013 session.
On Thursday, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, announced his own bill to change the definition of school security officer to mean a retired or former law enforcement officer. Those individuals would provide armed security for public schools.
The bill also asks to include these school security officers in a grant program for school resource officers.
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or email@example.com