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School board reviews progress on security

School board reviews progress on security

July 16th, 2013 in News

Two years ago the Jefferson City Public School district started spending significantly more on security initiatives.

On Monday night, Director of Facilities Bob Weber offered the Board of Education a rundown on how the money has been spent. And he suggested more may be needed.

Three years ago, the district was spending approximately $55,000 on security concerns, Weber said. However, in the last two years, the district has spent $190,000 annually on security-related projects.

He estimated the district has disbursed about $1 million over the last decade as it tried to improve safety and respond to the tragedies that unfolded in places like Columbine and Newtown.

All of the district's classrooms now can be locked from the inside. "They used to be locked with keys from the hallways, so that kids couldn't lock their teachers out of the classroom," he said.

Jefferson City High School now has 60 cameras on campus - 45 at the main building and 15 at Nichols Career Center.

A buzz-in system has been installed at the high school, although it is disengaged between classes so students can travel between the main building and the career center.

"It's not an ideal situation, but I think it has helped," he said.

The high school also has a new identification badge system for visitors. The new system scans a visitor's drivers license and identifies if he or she is listed as a sex offender before permitting entry.

At the middle school level, both Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson have new buzz-in systems at their front entries and bulletproof teller windows near the administrative offices. Weber added all of the original analog cameras have been replaced. The old cameras could be accessed only within the building; school resource officers can manage the new cameras via the district's wifi network.

At Simonsen Ninth Grade Center, a second set of doors - with a buzz-in system - is being installed this summer.

At the elementary level, all schools now have six to eight security cameras apiece.

Referring to district-wide initiatives, Weber said a federal grant allowed the district to upgrade and purchase two-way radios. The federal grant also paid for more cameras and a door access at Jefferson City Academic Center.

He also said the district is considering purchasing software - via a Federal Homeland Security grant - that would allow personnel to override a school's entire computer network with an "Intruder in School" message.

School administrators also have approached law enforcement, asking them to provide additional recommendations on securing buildings and improving safety procedures.

"We've asked the Jefferson City Police Department: What would it take - fiscally, monetarily - to get the security they recommend?" Weber said. "How do you pay for that?"

Depending on what local law enforcement leaders recommend, Weber said school leaders are contemplating delaying the planned 2014 renovations at West Elementary School by one year.

"We don't like doing that, but we have to figure out how to do some of these projects," Weber lamented.

JCPD Capt. Doug Shoemaker said his department has assigned an additional officer to the task of overseeing the examination of all of the district's campuses for safety improvements.

Officer Robert Shearer - who frequently substitutes as a school resource officer at the high school - will be taking on that new role.

"We will look methodically at every school in the district," Shoemaker said.