School district adds new security to elementary schools

Scott Turner A person swipes his school entry card recently at Evergreen Elementary School’s new front door security system. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Parents and visitors who want to enter any elementary school in the Peninsula School District (PSD) need to learn a whole new system for getting into the building.

According to Dan Gregory, PSD assistant superintendent for K-12 programs and school improvement, each elementary school in the district has been outfitted with entry-control devices that operate on a card system.

The devices were installed over the summer in all elementary schools and plans are underway to also install them in all the middle schools this winter.

At Evergreen Elementary, for instance, all teachers and staff now have little cards ––about the size of a credit card –– staff hold near a keypad next to the schoolhouse door and the device reads their card and lets them in, said Principal Hugh Maxwell.

Maxwell is working on a system for how to regulate the door, he said.

“It’s a computerized locking mechanism. We tell the computer to open the doors at a certain time every morning and also when to shut and lock them,” he said.

Right now, doors are programmed to open at about 8:45. and close at 9:15 a.m at Evergreen and Vaughn elementary schools.

“There’s a little buzzer that parents and other visitors will press when they want to enter the building. The button rings to all of our phones in the office and we can let people in as soon as we have identified them,”Maxwell said.

“We’re trying to make it as user-friendly as possible because we know that 99.9 percent of the people who come to our school are parents or grandparents or friends or a delivery person,” he said.

It’s all part of PSD’s effort to make schools safer and more secure, Gregory said.

A year or so ago, the district hired a consultant to do a safety assessment of all it’s schools.

Survey results revealed “a variety of safety and security issues in our elementary and middle schools,”Gregory said.

“When you look at the tragedies that have occurred across the country over the past few years, you realize that we’re in a different place than we were five to 10 years ago.

“And the safety and security of our students and staff are the number one priority for us. We’re doing this so we can add one more layer of safety and security for our students and our staff,” he said.

Elementary students are the most vulnerable, Gregory added, so that’s where the district started. KPMS and Kopachuck are on the priority list for middle schools.

The entry systems cost around $7,000 per school to install, with the money from levy funds PSD had set aside for safety and security initiatives, he said.

The district is still deciding what to do at the high schools. “With all the comings and goings and all the entry points at our high schools, it makes them much more difficult to do,”Gregory said.

For his part, Maxwell thinks the new entry system is a good thing and that the best defense is a good offense.

“That means building strong relationships with our students and our families so they know we care about them and we want what’s best for them and we want every kid to leave our school thinking that this is a great school,”Maxwell said. “Then the likelihood of a kid coming back and wanting to harm the staff or students is almost nonexistent.”

Maxwell acknowledged that change is difficult. “When things change, people’s level of concern goes way up. I think the fact that we have the flexibility to unlock the doors and invite the community in is important. We’re controlling the system, the system’s not controlling us,”he said.