BRIGHTON — A districtwide review of safety and security protocols will result in all 27J schools installing computerized visitor screening systems.
The Raptor Technologies systems will require school visitors to present a driver’s license or state-issued identification and will conduct a limited background check before printing a visitor badge with the individual’s photo.
Chief Operation’s Officer Terry Lucero said almost immediately after the mid-December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the district starting getting calls from concerned parents. Lucero said following the incident, schools immediately began strict adherence to their protocols and that Superintendent Chris Fiedler authorized the use of the district’s reserves to allow for security changes in the schools.
The Raptor screening systems will cost the district about $34,000.
“By the end of the month, we will have this Raptor system in every one of our schools, including charter schools,” he said.
Southeast Elementary School Principal Sarah James said she is excited for the Raptor system to be put in place at the school. She said it’s important to know who is entering the building so they can keep the children safe and that the system also serves as a deterrent.
“I think the safety of our students is our utmost priority,” she said. “Kids need to feel safe in order to learn and whatever we can do that’s within our control, we’re going to do our very best to make sure that our students feel safe and that our parents feel good about sending their kids to Southeast. I know that’s a common feeling in the district.”
Parents Amy Propernick and Mandy Thomas are also excited about the implementation of the new Raptor system.
Propernick, who is the PTO secretary at Southeast Elementary School, has three children enrolled in the district. She said safety has been her and parents minds since October with the Jessica Ridgeway case and that they’ve been hyper-vigilant with the safety of the kids. She is “very excited” there’s going to be one procedure that, no matter what, a person walks in the door, they get checked.
“It may be inconvenient but it’s for our kid’s best interest, so I think we’re all able to take that one extra minute out of our day to make sure the kids are safe,” she said.
Thomas, PTO president at Second Creek Elementary School, has two children enrolled in the district. She said she’s glad to see district officials are recognizing the need for improved security and as times change, they need to adapt. She said it’s sad the district has to spend this money and make these renovations in the schools but that it’s necessary in this day and age.
“I’m just very glad to see our school district stepping up and looking into improving the security at our school for our students and our staff,” she said. “I’ve seen other schools that have a similar system and I’ve heard they work really well.”
In addition to the implementation of the Raptor system, Lucero said each of the schools have a fairly sophisticated video surveillance system and will be changing their use for preventative measures to keep an eye on what’s happening at school entrances as well as the playgrounds.
Each school is also being reviewed for potential security improvements as the varied age of the district’s buildings present unique security concerns. Lucero has been conducting walk-throughs of each school with principals to determine opportunities for improvements.
Among the improvements being discussed are panic buttons that would call central dispatch when pushed and police will respond with specific orders; having a vestibule with locked doors where those wanting to enter the school will have to state their business before entering; using the fire doors for lock out doors and ensuring that intercoms reach all classrooms. Lucero said the district is also asking teachers keep their classrooms locked at all times.
While Lucero believes the addition of the Raptor system and school-by-school security improvements will serve as added deterrents, he added that no systems are as effective without the cooperation of parents and the community.
“We’ve encouraged our school staffs to approach the daily job of school security with an increased vigilance he said in the release. “We want our parents and community members to do the same as they are checking in at the front office of their school and to follow more protective security protocols. We need to work together to keep our schools safe.”