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Friday, December 15, 2017

Access system intended to secure school

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Dawson County High School became a lot more secure as of Wednesday morning as school officials activated a newly installed door security system to better control who’s coming into the building throughout the school day.

The new security camera/buzzer system on the North Merrill Avenue and Slocum Street entrances to the building will for the first time give DCHS staff control of who is entering the building, as well as simply the knowledge that someone is in the building. DCHS Principal Wade Murphy noted that the way DCHS is laid out, with the school offices nestled deep within the interior of the building and no staff having a view of any of the building’s entrances, it has always been very difficult for school officials to even know who is coming and going from the school.

“We have blind entrances, and most schools aren’t set up with blind entrances, and that doesn’t give you the ability to know who’s going in and out of your building” Murphy said.

Asked if he and other staff  members commonly encounter members of the public wandering the school halls without anybody knowing they are there, Murphy responded, “Every day.”

“And I mean that,” he added. “Now most of the time they’re parents, but how do I know that?”

“We need to know who’s in our building,” added Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis.

Schreibeis said that besides the basic safety concerns, it’s important for staff and students to feel secure to foster a positive learning environment.

“Safety’s our number one priority in our district. We’re here to educate, but it’s hard for either students or staff to do their learning if they don’t feel safe,” Schreibeis said. “We have to get the safety under control so we can educate our kids.”

Murphy added that while safety is the primary concern, there are other reasons for having access control security on the school’s entrances. He said just moving people like delivery drivers efficiently in and out of the building is another good reason for having the system.

“A lot of times, I think people think it’s just because of all the bad things that have happened, but not necessarily. It’s also about getting people to the right place,” Murphy said.

The new door security system is also just the tip of the iceberg, both Murphy and Schreibeis said, as school district officials are planning for future projects to further improve school security. At DCHS, Murphy has plans to eventually renovate the Slocum Street entrance, placing the school offices and a reception desk right up front at that entrance as a means of better controlling who’s coming and going from the school.

“Honestly, it’s kind of just the start of us reviewing all of our policies and procedures and trying to shore up where we’re deficient,” Murphy said. “So even though this is a nice first step, that’s what it is, a first step towards making sure all our buildings are more secure.”

Schreibeis noted that door buzzer systems will also be installed at all the district’s other schools within the coming weeks, which he hopes to have completed before year’s end.

“I’m hoping that by December we will have most of this up and running in the schools,” Schreibeis said.

Visitors to DCHS will see the camera/buzzer device next to the door. Press the button and school staff will be able to see you and speak to you. After you give your identity, they will buzz you in and direct you to the school office to sign in and get a visitors pass. Visitors to the school can also now use the Slocum Street entrance, which was previously locked to the public during the school day.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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