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Board plans for student safety

FINN ROCK: The McKenzie School Board got a dose of sticker shock last Wednesday when a bid for limiting access at key entry doors arrived with a $25,000 price tag. Jason Davis, the district’s technology coordinator, has been exploring options to make the campus safer for students. He outlined a strategy for installing magnetic locks and cameras at building entrances. The locations included the front doors of the high school and administration buildings as well as two more at the elementary school.

Davis said the general setup would include a downward looking camera at each door connected to a nearby office staffer who would communicate via intercom with people before they could enter. District personnel would carry magnetic keys with unique identifiers that could be disabled if lost, he added.

The safety concerns were connected with recent tragedies at other schools around the country. School superintendent Sally Storm told the board the district was also looking at fencing off access from the parking lots. That approach could include placement of gates between the high school and the new gymnasium as well as between the administration and the old gym. “Once kids got in, they could move around,” Storm said. Other fencing might be installed to block access to the elementary school’s covered outdoor area, she added.

 While the emphasis was on blocking unauthorized entry, Davis said a prime point to remember was that people inside would never be blocked from getting out by a locked door. Currently, someone can hit a “panic bar” to get out of the buildings.

Board member Darla Reinhart asked what would happen during a power outage. Davis said the magnetic locks included a battery backup that would allow time for maintenance personnel to go to the school and “key lock the doors.”

Another board member, Kent Roberts, said that every deterrent could help but noted that, “If someone really, really wants to get in your house, they’ll get in. We’re deterring the average whatever and need to look at it pragmatically. Every deterrent is a deterrent.”

Storm agreed the district is in a tough situation. “Even with the magnetic locks we’re looking at – Sandy Elementary had them, and he shot his way in,” she noted. “I think we’re at one end of the extreme right now and that’s going to cost us some money. We have to decide what we can do.”

Davis said he would continue his research and return for an update next month. He cautioned the board to be prepared to expect complaints and some backlash. “After you put a security system in place six months could pass. People forget the shootings and all you’re left with is the day-to-day inconvenience of the security system.”

Although the district in the past had a less sophisticated lock system, it wasn’t very effective. Davis said it was, “A good example of what happens if you do this half way. It doesn’t work well and can be worse than doing nothing at all.”



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