The installation of controlled-access security systems at all Ralston Public Schools buildings is progressing and the district expects the system should be fully operational by mid-March.
After board approval in December to move forward on the new security measures, in addition to the controlled-access measures, the district is also working to implement new procedures for evacuations, lock-downs and such things as fire and tornado drills.
“We’re taking a look at everything,” said Brad Dahl, assistant superintendent for business, who is overseeing the security enhancements. “Controlled access is one thing, but we also have found we need to take a look at our responses to other situations that may arise.”
Dahl said the district’s safety committee, made up of building principals, staff and representatives from central office, are still putting together those standardized plans for implementation with the controlled-access rollout.
The controlled-access system will be in place during the school day and require building staff to use keycards for entry at three to five points at a building’s exterior entrances.
Through voice and video controls at the schools’ main entrances, visitors — including parents — must identify themselves and their business at the school via an intercom system to the school’s office. Once in the building, visitors must also stop by the school’s office to sign in, a procedure that has been in place for several years in the schools.
Dahl said he hopes to be able to share information about the changes with the public on as many levels and through as many platforms as possible.
“We want people to be aware of what’s going to be happening,” he said. “It’s important that the public is informed as to what they can expect.”
The board expressed its support for the security changes, but also acknowledged a level of frustration with the need to take such measures.
“We don’t want to have parents feel frustrated in the changeover of this process,” Board President Linda Richards said. “I’m angry. What I’m angry about is that I have to do this and it’s a sad day that we’re at this point. But the question is how to balance security with the statement: ‘This is our school and you’re welcome here.’”
Board Member Rick Kollar said he sees the decision as one stemming from a set of outside expectations being foisted upon the district.
“We don’t need to do this,” Kollar said. “We’re doing this because of public pressure to do this.”
Dahl said the safety committee has tried to be as sensitive as possible in the debate between public access and security.
“We’re balancing being an open and inviting area for the public and the safety of our kids,” he said.
“We do realize security can be inconvenient, but we can be more vigilant, more active in it.”
Dahl said the board can expect another update on the installation progress in February.
He said he also soon hopes to have information on training staff in the use of the new system.