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Modern school security is high tech

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Grandview Middle School has new levels of security, including badges that can track employees within the building and include multiple panic buttons. Vice Principal Jack Dalton’s badge (pictured) is typical and provides two-way communication with security.

GRANDVIEW – Students and teachers arriving at Grandview Middle School must scan their ID cards to enter the building. Once inside, teachers are tracked through a Wi-Fi system that also gives them the ability to call security with the press of a button.

The system was piloted at the middle school in Grandview this year, and Superintendent Kevin Chase already has plans to expand the full system to every school in the district, if the funding becomes available.

In addition, the Sunnyside School District hopes to implement similar security measures. Officials there say the first step towards better security in local schools is passing the bond proposal during the special election next month.

According to Sunnyside School District Director of Executive Services Curtis Campbell, in addition to replacing Washington Elementary School the bond money will be used for upgraded security across the district.

Security camera systems will be installed at Harrison Middle School and the older elementary schools. Access control, like at Grandview Middle School, will be implemented around the district.

Automatic and timed door locks will be installed that can be locked down more quickly and from a central location, which the district says saves time and better protects staff in the event of an emergency.

If the district has enough funds or can get a security grant, a tracking system like the one at Grandview Middle School may be implemented as well.

“We are looking at the Grandview model and will be considering it,” said Campbell.

Chase said that Grandview’s vision of security has been one of layers that build upon each other to make school a safe place for children.

“First we added fencing around all the buildings,” he said.

Access control was next.

“In a nutshell, all buildings are locked on all outside doors,” said Chase. “Some entrances have card readers. Teachers and students have badges that can open the doors, but visitors have to be buzzed in with a speaker and camera system.”

Once inside the building, visitors must obtain a pass from the main office. Part of that process at the middle school includes having your driver’s license or identity card scanned.

“We can do a search and check for red flags based on the license,” said Chase. “Right there in the office.

“We can also put in notes. In instances of no-contact orders, we can have that pop up when the visitor is checked into the office.”

Visitors then will have their picture taken, which will be printed on a temporary badge.

Teachers and students have permanent badges that give them access to the building. Each badge only provides access to the school during the hours of attendance.

“All the high school and middle school students have badges,” said Chase. Students are expected to carry the badges at all times, most wear them on a lanyard.

The system piloted at the middle school also gives teachers a second badge that includes a panic button. Or rather, three panic buttons.

“Push one and the school’s security team arrives,” said Chase. “Push another for a medical emergency. The last one will summon school security and the local emergency services.”

The program had a few glitches when it started at the beginning of the school year, according to Grandview Middle School Vice Principal Jack Dalton. Most of the issues were quickly ironed out through software changes.

“We had a few false alarms at first, until we got used to it,” said Dalton. “But we didn’t have any mistakes for two months until recently.”

An alarm was set off by a teacher accidentally, but Dalton said the incident only proved the system works.

“We had the security team there in under 60 seconds,” he said.

The system also allows administration to send short text messages directly to a teacher’s badge, or to all staff members in the event of an emergency. Dalton monitors the system at Grandview Middle School, which includes reminding teachers to charge the devices and watching for glitches.

Chase wants to expand the system to all the schools in the district, giving teachers instant access to help in the event of an emergency.

“We are hoping to get a state safety grant,” said Chase. “We are very pleased with how it’s working at the middle school.”

Chase said the final piece is training. The teachers will be going through drills to know how to react in an emergency, such as a school shooting.

“The old paradigm (for a school shooting) used to be to hide,” said Chase. “The new paradigm is to run, fight or hide. The damage that happens in a school shooting happens in that 15 minutes before police can arrive. We want to reduce the possibilities during that 15 minutes and keep people safe long enough for help to get there.”

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