Jefferson City Public Schools is exploring different approaches to improving school security — some involving new technologies and others just about having students put a name and friendly face behind a badge.
JCPS's safety and security committee held its quarterly meeting Tuesday afternoon, and Frank Underwood, the district's transportation, safety and security coordinator, discussed safety and security initiatives including trials of an emergency notification system and three different visitor management systems, and a program called "Lunch with Law Enforcement."
West Elementary School will be the district's test school for the Alertus Enhanced Notification Services and Support system — a computer server-powered warning system that can broadcast messages across all personal and district electronic devices connected to a school building's internet network.
Underwood said the district will use the system's installation at West to see exactly what it takes to put in and operate it. He said the estimated cost for the Alertus installation at West will be $6,300.
Panic buttons for the system cost $175 each, and he said the exact cost of installation at any building "depends on how big we make it," and on site-specific variables such as the size of each building.
Lawson Elementary School is testing three different visitor management systems to see which, if any, can effectively provide instant background checks on visitors.
Underwood explained visitors feed their photo IDs into the Raptor Technologies, Hall Pass and Elliott Data Systems Inc. systems — photo IDs are already required for people to be allowed entrance into buildings anyway — and then the computers take security another step further in two ways.
First, the inserted IDs are scanned and the picture is run against the national database of sexual offenders. An ID free of any red flags is returned. Then secondly, the system prints out a visitor badge with the picture from the ID, plus the visitor's name, date of their visit, time they entered and their purpose for being at school.
A new badge would be printed each time a visitor comes to a building, Underwood said.
As JCPS looks into new technologies to enhance the security of its buildings, Underwood said the district is also looking at its preparedness policies and programs.
The "Lunch with Law Enforcement" program will start on the first day of school and remain a standing invitation to local police officers to visit any of JCPS's 11 elementary schools for a free meal at lunch or breakfast with students.
"We believe that this will help build and strengthen the relationship (of officers) with the schools, students and the community. This will further strengthen the ideals students have of their local law enforcement and solidify the fact that officers are friendly, good people and not only there when bad things happen," according to a program flyer.
Underwood said the Jefferson City and Holts Summit police departments and Callaway and Cole County sheriff's departments have been invited, and he's trying to reach the Missouri Highway Patrol.
"To me, it was a good way to get a patrol vehicle out in front of a school," he added.
JCPS has dedicated school resource officers at its secondary schools, but currently only has one SRO who travels between each of the 11 elementary schools.
The 2018-19 budget approved Monday night by the JCPS Board of Education does include additional funding to hire a second SRO to float between elementary schools.
JCPS Director of Human Resources Shelby Scarbrough said the district is rolling out a new package of Safe Schools electronic training for faculty and staff. The videos and handbooks included will be made available Monday and are due to be completed by Aug. 31.
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Scarbrough said faculty and staff will need a minimum score of 80 percent to pass the training, and the district's central office will be able to see who at what building hasn't yet completed the training past the deadline — "and then we can hound them until it's done."
She added each training package will be tailored to an employee's specific job — teachers' training will be different than food service staff's training, for example.
JCPS has also revised its emergency drill schedule. Fire and evacuation drills are not to be held less than seven times each school year, with one drill to be held within the first 10 days of school and another within the first week of summer school.
One fire drill can be run in combination with a severe weather drill, and another can be held in combination with an earthquake drill — the weather and earthquake drills are each supposed to be held once a semester.
Drills are to be recorded through a collective Google Docs form, so Underwood can do a monthly record check, as he said he's done since he started in his position in October 2017.