Schools take strong stance for safety this year

Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks
A vestibule has been added to the Cole County R-1 Elementary School entrance as part of the district's effort to improve security. Visitors must be approved by office staff before being given access to the student area.

Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks A vestibule has been added to the Cole County R-1 Elementary School entrance as part of the district's effort to improve security. Visitors must be approved by office staff before being given access to the student area. Photo by Michelle Brooks.

By Democrat staff

Area schools have taken a closer look at facility security and student safety. Staff training and plan development have been the jumping-off point for many districts.

California R-1 and Jamestown C-1 schools have emphasized intruder preparedness.

Local law enforcement has been involved with California's updates to "keep the schools on the radar," said Superintendent Dwight Sanders. An Intruder Response Course will take place Friday at the high school.

Staff training an integral part of Jamestown's actions recently.

"Last spring, school administrators went through security training," Jamestown Superintendent Ellen Ash said. "We met with all of our teachers and practiced these security measures with them."

Entrances have been a top priority in security improvements.

Cole County R-1 Schools installed a vestibule at its elementary facility, requiring visitors to check with the secretary before proceeding into the school building. With the new construction also came a new policy, preventing adults from escorting their children to their classroom of a morning.

The design is similar to the new Latham School, which opened last school year.

When the school was rebuilt following a 2010 fire, the new construction used a lot of windows.

Instead of being a weakness, teachers view the open views as a good defense.

"We're a small community and we know who belongs," said Superintendent Tanya Brown. "We know our parents and we're aware of our surroundings."

High Point R-3 also contains visitors between the exterior entrance and access to the rest of the school.

Surveillance cameras have been added inside and out at High Point and Clarksburg.

California has been using security cameras for some time. Recently, officials have been making updates to ensure the facilities are well covered. New this year is an electronic entry system at the high school main entrance.

California voters will be asked in April 2014 to support a bond issue, which would add security measures like a new intercom system at the elementary school, as well as district-wide technology upgrades.

The 2012 attack at a Connecticut elementary school has been motivation for schools to take further precautions, administrators agreed.

But the world is a more mobile society and there has been an increase in parental custody issues and new faces to school staff. These measures will continue, said Russellville Superintendent Jerry Hobbs.

"We have made recent improvements to our security and we are currently investigating possibilities for more improvements," said Prairie Home R-V Principal Patrick Tray.

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