Working toward being proactive instead of reactive, the Lonedell R-XIV School District Board of Education decided to start taking measures to increase security at its building on Highway FF.
More specifically, the seven-member school board voted to bid out contracts for new phone and surveillance systems as well as to bid out replacing an outside door, better secure the preschool area and making windows around the elementary area more secure.
The decisions made during the board’s January meeting, members said, are needed and will be part of an overall process to make the school as secure as possible.
“It looks like a lot of money on paper, but you can’t put a price on life,” board member Maureen Lindsey said. “I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t do anything and then something happened.”
An exact price tag for the upgrades was not known and won’t be until bids are received and approved, but the total bill for the projects could be in the neighborhood of at least $60,000 to $70,000.
Principal Jen Ulrich said she has toured her building several times with different members of law enforcement in an effort to make sure the district realizes any and all potential vulnerabilities in the school. It was the general consensus of the school board and the administration during the Jan. 23 meeting that the district needs to work from the outside in in regard to security upgrades.
“We have to look at all exterior entrances first and secure them as best we can,” Ulrich said.
“I think we have to look at it (security upgrades) in phases and start with the outside first and work inward,” board President Kathy Reed said in agreement.
The increased security upgrades at Lonedell come in the wake of December’s tragic shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Since that event, school districts across the nation have reviewed their security plans and taken action on how to make their facilities safer.
St. Clair R-XIII currently is going through the same process.
“The No. 1 thing is that everything is important to us because we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can, from facilities to procedures,” R-XIV Superintendent Fred VanBibber said. “The goal here is for the board to discuss all this and get going.”
The phone system upgrade would place a phone in every classroom as well as update the system itself. The facility still would have a dedicated land line “for emergency use only,” VanBibber said.
Currently, Lonedell uses an intercom system for communications between office personnel and teachers in their classrooms.
“A phone system will provide peace of mind for communication in an emergency,” Ulrich said.
It was agreed that communication through an updated phone system could be done easier and faster in all situations, including an emergency, and give more staff the ability to alert the building of an emergency. Currently, that only can be done through the intercom system, which is based in the school office.
An estimated price tag to install the upgrade was $20,000 plus additional costs for switching materials, which could amount to an extra $10,000 to $15,000.
The surveillance system would place about 25 cameras in and around the school that would provide live feeds as well as taped footage. The system would have its own server, and front office and other personnel would be able to monitor activity as well as retrieve stored information after the fact.
VanBibber said law enforcement also would have the ability to view the cameras live through remote access in any kind of a situation.
“Our cameras now are more reactive,” Ulrich said. “This system would allow us to be more proactive.”
The estimated cost for the surveillance upgrade is $30,000 to $35,000.
The other projects would install a security gate and new door in the kitchen leading to the outside, increasing the chain-link fence height to 6 feet around the outside preschool area and tinting windows around the elementary classrooms and office areas to make it more difficult to see inside while allowing visibility from the inside looking out.
“Nothing we do will keep out a madman,” Special Education Coordinator Sue Emmons told board members. “What we’re doing with all this is making seconds count. We want to give our staff more seconds, as much time as possible, to be prepared.”
Not all prices for these upgrades were discussed.
The district also is looking at adding a third set of secured doors that would limit access from the office to all classrooms. Currently, individuals entering the school have to go through two sets of glass doors to gain entry and sign in at the office, but there is no barrier from the office to the school hallways and classrooms.
Last spring, Ulrich updated Lonedell’s safety plan in an attempt to better communicate with all parties that would be involved in case some kind of emergency occurred.
“One of the ultimate goals with this is to make sure what everyone needs to know ahead of time if something happens,” the principal said in April 2012. “We want to make sure everyone involved is better informed.”
The plan would be put into effect during any kind of emergency.