Security upgrades at all 27 campuses in the Putnam City school district are continuing this year with the addition of electronic locks for front doors and video and intercom equipment that will allow office staff to screen visitors.
When the improvements are completed, a visitor will enter into a vestibule and then will be granted access into the office through a door that can be unlocked by office personnel with the push of a button. Office personnel also will be able to communicate with the visitor by way of a video camera and intercom system.
“The office staff will ask them to state their business, and if it is legitimate, they will then be buzzed into the office,” Putnam City Public Schools Police Chief Mark Stout said.
After checking in at the office, the visitor will then be buzzed through another door that leads from the office into the school.
“One of the things we've been looking at since Sandy Hook is the access to the school from that vestibule and how we can add another layer of security,” Stout said. “That's the main purpose.”
There are five campuses that do not currently have vestibules at their entrances. At those schools, the front doors of the school are locked and office staff must grant visitors access into the building by buzzing them in. Plans calls for the construction of vestibules at those schools by the next school year.
From a construction standpoint, some of those schools will be easy to fit with vestibules, but others will present more of a challenge.
“Each building is extremely unique,” Director of Operations Jim Hooper said. “Some of our buildings were built in the 1930s, and some of them are just a few years old. Each one has a set of different requirements. We look at everything from the style of doors to where to put the wiring for the door system.”
Hooper said building vestibules at Rollingwood Elementary School was an example of a challenging project. Three classrooms had to be closed, and the school's offices were moved. The classrooms were then rebuilt where the offices were.
Hooper said cost to build the vestibules at the schools that don't currently have them will range from about $120,000 to $500,000 apiece with the Rollingwood project an example of the higher end of that scale. The upgrades are being paid for from a combination of building fund money and bond money.
“When we started putting in the vestibules seven years ago, each time we did one, we learned a better way to do it,” Hooper said.
Stout said the demand has been high for the equipment that will be used in the video and intercom, along with the electronic locking system.
“There are a lot of schools that are looking for ways to upgrade their security,” Stout said. “I think everyone is trying to order it at the same time.”