The Ralston Public Schools are currently in the process of examining various options for increased school safety. Once proposals are developed and the Board of Education has had a chance to vote, these changes can begin to be implemented, with the aim of having the first phase up and running by next school year.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Brad Dahl said the District Safety Committee has been talking about increased security measures for the schools and identified it as a need for the district.
“We already have safety measures in place in all the schools,” Dahl said. “This would just increase that and make it even more effective.”
At its Oct. 14 meeting, the Ralston Board of Education heard a presentation on proposed safety updates for the schools from Kidwell, Inc. The stated goals for the project included limiting building access to only students, staff and authorized individuals and increasing situational awareness for district administrators and law enforcement personnel. Three potential phases for the project included controlled access, card access and video surveillance.
“Controlled access” would involve a lockdown of school facilities during the day with access to the building controlled through an intercom system.
“There would be video and voice systems at every main entry point,” Dahl said. Visitors would buzz into the school and communicate who they were and why they were at the school.
“There would be a monitor in the office so that a secretary or administrator could identify the person and open the doors from that point,” Dahl said. Procedures would be in place for the beginning of the school day to allow students to enter en masse during the time before the first bell.
Another option for the district is card access, which would open up more entrance points. Staff and community groups would be issued cards that would open any of a particular building’s doors. This would allow staff to enter the building closer to their parking spaces. Teachers could also let students in at the door nearest the playground at the end of recess, instead of walking the class back around to the main entrance points.
A third potential phase for the district’s security updates would involve a camera system that was easily accessible by both school officials and police personnel.
“One of the things we’ve considered with this project is that we want our schools to be open and inviting to the community,” Dahl said. “But I think there’s a way to be welcoming while still being safe. Even if it is a little inconvenient for some, it’s better to err on the side of safety.”
Dahl is currently working on a request for proposals, which will allow the district to search for the most effective options that are also the most cost-effective. Once the initial cost of equipment and installation has been paid, the new measures would cost the district nothing and be operated by existing personnel. A presentation on the issue will be made at the Nov. 11 Board of Education meeting before the proposal is put out for bids.
“The Board is ready and wants to move forward on this,” Dahl said. “It’s one of those areas you don’t short yourself on.”
Board President Linda Richards agreed the district should take a more proactive stance on building security.
“We’ve been very cautious in looking at our options on this,” Richards said. “It’s time to move. I would be very upset if we took more than a month on this.”