The Lonedell R-XIV School District Board of Education continued to discuss plans to make some security improvements at the facility when members met at the school for their February meeting late last month.
Lonedell School administrators and board members have been focusing on security measures in the 300-plus student building for several months, but stepped up their efforts this year after a gunman killed 20 students and six adults in a school in Connecticut in December.
Some discussions specifically got going in January. Those discussions continued last month.
The school district is in the process of receiving bids from companies for a new phone system and an updated security camera system. Received bids will be opened later this month, and contracts could be awarded.
“We’re getting quite a few bids,” VanBibber said during the Feb. 20 meeting.
In January, the seven-member school board voted to bid out contracts for the new phone and surveillance systems as well as to bid out replacing an outside door, better secure the preschool area and make windows around the elementary area more secure.
The improvements will be part of an overall process to make the school as secure as possible.
An exact price tag for all of the upgrades remains unknown, 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 regarding security upgrades.
One decision that was made during the February meeting was to purchase clear, plastic coating for the two sets of main entrance doors as well as for the front office windows and old gymnasium doors and windows. The installation price for the coating is $7 per square foot.
“The purpose here is to keep the windows from shattering and to give us a little more reaction time,” VanBibber said. “The idea with this is safety and timing.”
The superintendent said currently the glass in these areas easily can be shot out and entrance gained quickly.
Board member Joe Tharp said he experimented with the plastic protection at his home by attaching some of it to a glass panel, firing bullets into it and then attempting to kick in the glass. He said entry was gained, but it took extra time and the glass did not shatter with the plastic protection.
“That’s what we’re after,” VanBibber said. “The plastic does not make the glass bulletproof, but it will make it take longer to gain entry. That gives us more time, even a few seconds, to react. That could be big.”
The board opted against using tinted plastic that would allow visibility from the inside out, but limit that visibility from the outside in.
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 landline “for emergency use only,” VanBibber said.
Currently, Lonedell uses an intercom system for communications between office personnel and teachers in their classrooms.
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.
“These cameras will be about 1,000 times better than the ones we have now,” the superintendent told board members in February.
Ulrich also updated board members on the school’s lockdown drill that took place earlier in the month.
The drill was not a surprise as students and staff were told during the morning assembly that it was coming later that day and what they should expect.
The simulation pretended there was a “shooter” in the building.
“I feel the drill was very effective and was very worthwhile,” Ulrich said. “The students and staff did an excellent job. As Mrs. (Sue) Emmons and I checked classrooms, there was not one room where we could see or hear our children from the hallway.
“It was a phenomenal job by all.”
Ulrich went on to say that it was an “eerie feeling” to not see or hear anyone in the school during the drill.
“But that also was a very good thing,” she said, “because everyone then was doing what they were supposed to be doing.”
Ulrich also said it “truly was good to see that we can shut down our building that quickly.”
The principal said additional drills will be conducted in the future.