Adding television monitors to give office staff members a better view of the front doors at some schools in the Rolla School District is imminent.
“We want to be community friendly. We want to accommodate the needs of parents and patrons,” Assistant Superintendent Kelly Hinshaw said at Thursday night’s Rolla Board of Education meeting. “But we need to balance that with security.”
Hinshaw continued the talk about school facility improvements that he started at the first January meeting two weeks ago, and security was a big part of that discussion.
So, too, was a plan to solicit bids for the expansion of the Rolla High School cafeteria and the synthetic turfing of the Lions Memorial Stadium.
But it was building security that was front and center in the discussion of building improvements.
“We’ve been talking about this quite a bit,” Hinshaw said, noting that the administrative team and members of the Rolla Police Department have met and will continue to meet to discuss improvements to security.
Both Hinshaw and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis insisted the attention to building security is not new and is not a reaction to the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that resulted in the deaths of more than a score of children.
“This has been on our list for six or seven years,” Zalis said of some of the planned changes related to security. And Hinshaw said in the past, the security aspects of building improvements would not have been a major point of discussion as the figures were presented.
It is to assure the public that security is always a part of facilities planning that it has been talked about at two consecutive meetings, they said.
In his presentation, Hinshaw security and safety in each building is unique for several reasons:
n Age of students and what they do during the day.
n Design of the building and how it affects the flow of students, where hallways are, how visible the entrances are and where the offices are.
n Building operations and the number of staff members available for supervision, along with the needs of students and community in the use of the building.
Hinshaw said security can be improved with facility improvements by paying attention to access with tools such as cameras, locking devices and design changes.
Personnel and procedural changes can also be used to enhance security.
Even with careful attention to changes in the structure, improvements continue to be needed.
“You solve problems with additions, but you also create new problems,” Hinshaw said.
There are changes that can be made that won’t cost money to improve security, he noted.
“Simply locking doors when they need to be locked” is the starting point, Hinshaw said, noting “there are 400 doors at the high school.” Keeping those doors locked “is a challenge.”
Monitoring the flow of students out of the building each day can also help. “How you load buses and how you load students into cars” is another factor in security, Hinshaw said.
Using photographic slides, Hinshaw looked at the entrances of each building to suggest changes.
Truman Elementary School has limited visibility of the front door by office staff, so Hinshaw said a television monitor will be placed in the office and a chime will be placed on the one unlocked door. The chime will alert staff when the door is open, so they can check the video monitor.
Similar adjustments are planned at Mark Twain Elementary School and Rolla Technical Institute.
At Rolla High School, Hinshaw said replacement and reconfiguring of doors and the air lock at the Cedar Street entrance will be accomplished. At the new entrance on the lower level, on what had traditionally been the back of the school building but which has become the main entrance, a receptionist’s desk and greeter are planned.
It’s possible badges will be added as a requirement for all visitors. Buzzer-locks are also a possibility at all school doors. These will be discussed further as the board and administration seek to balance security with community and parental openness in the buildings.
Superintendent Zalis said the district has the money budgeted for facilities changes, and work can start now.
“There’s no reason to shortchange safety,” he said.