Parents, patrons and visitors hoping to enter the two USD 410 school buildings will find that entrance procedures have changed starting Thursday with the launch of the district?s new electronic access-control system.
The board approved the $30,000 system in February. While the system is state of the art, it?s no longer cutting edge, Superintendent Steve Noble.
?A lot of school districts in the state are already using this system, including other districts in our county,? Noble said. ?We?re latecomers on this one.
?We felt like the timing is right in light of the fact that we do live in a different world today than we did 20 years ago,? he added.
?The crisis incidents that are occurring around schools nationwide, and even close to home, have brought the situation into more focus for USD 410 to get this done.?
For a few years already, USD 410 has tried to limit access points to the middle/high and elementary buildings by locking all but one or two doors during the school day.
At the elementary school, the designated entry door is at the main entrance on the south side of the building.
While the entry doors will remain the same, the access-control system will require a modified entry procedure.
A visitor who comes to the designated entry door will push a ?doorbell.? The office staff will be alerted, and an intercom camera will enable staff to see the visitor at the door.
The visitor will then be asked to state his or her reason for entering. If the person and reason for entry are known to be legitimate, office staff will electronically unlock the door.
Once inside, the visitor will need to report immediately to the nearby office, where he or she will be given a visitor?s badge that authorizes the person to proceed to the designated destination.
Once the task is completed, the visitor will drop off the badge at the school office and exit the building.
Noble said the new system was approved for purchase for at least three reasons.
One reason was to secure the district?s investment in technology and supplies from theft or vandalism.
?The board and taxpayers have significant value inside those buildings in terms of equipment and supplies?computers and state of the art technology, for example,? he said. ?We have a need to secure those items and make sure they are safe.?
Far more important, though, is to keep students and district staff safe.
?Our most precious asset are our kids and our staff,? Noble said. ?We need to make sure our buildings are easily controlled on the outside in case of a crisis situation where we need to go into lockdown.?
Noble said a third factor is that until now, doors were locked and unlocked the old-fashioned way?with keys issued to approved personnel in the community to access the facility.
?Over time?no one in particular?s fault?we have lost track of keys that are floating around out in the community. It?s pretty common,? he said. ?We don?t know who has keys and who doesn?t have keys to our facilities. There?s a need there to shore that up.?
Noble said teachers, administrators, department heads, directors and some other classified staff will have 24-hour access.
Each authorized person will be issued a badge with a small computer chip to enable access at designated doors 24/7. The system also keeps a log of the comings and goings.
If one of the new badges is lost or simply not returned, the badge can be decommissioned or reprogrammed easily with the computer software that accompanies the system.
?It?s a smart system where we can adapt, change or modify it as it needs to change,? Noble said. ?We don?t have to go through the process of re-keying or change the cores of door locks.?
Students, of course, will not receive an access badge.
?The buildings will open before and after school for students to come in, but during the school day (8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), when the bulk of our students are there, the buildings will be locked down,? Noble said.
Noble said he hopes that new system will not dissuade parents from being involved with their children at school.
?We have a lot of parents who like to eat lunch with their children?it means a lot and it?s special,? he said. ?We want that to continue.?
However, the lunch room?otherwise known as the Gordon Mohn Com?munity Center?sets right next to the main entrance, adding a modest wrinkle to the procedure.
?What they?ll do is simply buzz in, come into the office and check in,? Noble said. ?The office will have lunch-visitor badges. The lunch visitor will get a badge, walk right across the hall, and that will access that door to get into the lunch room.?
For situations such as the public fitness center, an access badge will be issued to the designated rec-program person who is hired to supervise the facility.
That person will be responsible to unlock the entry doors for others to use the facility. The doors can be locked manually, or they can be programmed to lock automatically at a designated time.
Noble said the district encourages people to use the school facilities as they have been. The procedure for making arrangements for those kinds of uses will not change much.
?Joe Public needs to know that they can still reserve facilities as they always have?by contacting the facilities director, Robert Rempel,? Noble said.
?Once reserved, the next step is go to the district office to get an access badge,? he added.
The badge will be programmed for a particular time of use as well as the designated access door.