A security monitor in place at Warrensburg Elementary School allows school staffers to scrutinize each visitor before they are allowed passage through a locked entry door. The device features a video camera that can zoom and rotate for full examination and identification of visitors, as well as two-way audio. A similar monitor exists at Warrensburg High School, minus the keypad at left which allows staff members entry by punching a passcode.
SWhile schools around the nation re-examined their security measures this week in the wake of the horrific shooting of young children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, area residents took another look at the security monitors in place in the Warrensburg School District’s two schools.
Both Warrensburg Elementary and Warrensburg High School had security monitors installed this year, and school staffers have been carefully monitoring all who arrive at the schools’ main doors.
Since September, the front entrance doors of the high school have been locked for the entire school day, and visitors — even parents and delivery workers — are scrutinized by one or more school staffers before granted entry.
Visitors arriving at the front door push a buzzer on a monitoring system which alerts a staff member. Visitors then explain their intent, while an office staffer or administrator examines them with a high-definition video camera that can zoom and rotate for thorough visual inspection, Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson said Dec. 18.
After the visitor is positively identified, the door’s electronic latch is opened, and the visitor is tracked or escorted to either the main office or his or her destination, Lawson said.
All other doors on the sprawling high school building are kept locked all day.
The security monitor was installed this summer to replace the greeter who was stationed in the high school entrance lobby — a personnel position that was eliminated this year due to district budget cuts.
At the elementary school, a similar video security monitor system is in place on the back door. Greeter Jim Simkins, whose position survived the budget axe, scrutinizes people who come in the front door, which remains unlocked during routine school days. The device at the elementary school includes a keypad so staff members can punch in a code to gain access.
“These precautions are about safety and security, preventing people coming in our schools without a purpose,” said Jackie Hazlett, Lawson’s administrative assistant. Hazlett is among the staff members who operate the high school security monitor system through an interactive console on her desk.
“All employees have been instructed to keep their eyes open for anyone without a pass or an identification badge,” she said, noting that after dealing with the security monitor system, visitors have to sign in. “The staff members have been told to escort such people to the main office.”
She said that although stringent security measures have been in place for about a decade, they were tightened this year with the addition of the new devices.
“Mr. Lawson felt the security monitors provided an additional layer of security,” she said, explaining that the video camera can be aimed in all directions so a person can be examined from head to toe — and details can be scrutinized with the zoom feature — while the door remains locked.
The security monitors and locked-door policy are active between 8:15 a.m. and about 2:40 p.m., Lawson said, noting both monitor devices cost the school district about $14,000.
Lawson cautioned that no security measure provides absolute safety, but every practical precautionary measure is in force.
He said school staff and administrators were shocked and deeply saddened over the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Ct., an incident in which officials say Adam Lanza likely shot his way into the school through a locked glass door at the front entrance.
“It’s a travesty that something of this nature could happen,” Lawson said. “No one ever imagined that such a massacre could occur in this nation — elementary schools have always been a kind of sacred space.”
Lawson said he and other school officials were continuing to examine various safety measures.
“It’s good that our schools have the safety monitors and precautions in place, but it’s truly unfortunate that such items are necessary in this day and age.”