Security upgrades were made at several Council Bluffs schools this spring and summer, and more are on the way.
Highlights include a new visitor management system at Edison Elementary, a new safety vestibule and card key system at Thomas Jefferson High School, new security cameras at Abraham Lincoln High School and Crescent Elementary and new two-way radios at the remaining schools as part of a three-year replacement program.
“We’re excited to take our school safety and security to the next level,” Council Bluffs Community School District Superintendent Vickie Murillo said.
When someone visits Edison, they are asked to present their driver’s license. The bar code on the back of the license is scanned, and the information is saved on a computer, said Emily Hummel, administrative assistant at Edison. Hummel then takes a photo of the person with a webcam hooked up to the computer.
The system then does a lightning-fast check to make sure the person is not listed on the sex offender registry. If it clears them, Hummel clicks options on the screen to indicate the person’s purpose for visiting the school and what part of the building they will be going to. Then, a name tag is printed out with the person’s name, photo, destination, purpose and the date and time of their visit. With this system, the school can keep a record of all visitors, Hummel said.
Said Murillo, “It’s not meant to keep parents out, it’s an added layer of safety for our staff and students.”
Hummel said parents have been accepting of the new procedure.
“I did not have one parent that complained,” she said.
Edison Principal Mike Naughton is happy to have the system there.
“I think it’s a great safety feature we have at Edison, and I think it’s been well received,” he said. “Nobody makes it through the front door without having some sort of interaction with Emily. It’s really great to see the safety of who should be picking up kids and who should not be picking up kids.”
The system, piloted at Edison last spring, will be installed at all district buildings over the next few months with $40,000 raised through the physical plant and equipment levy, Murillo said. It will not be used when people are attending a community event at a school.
“We will have all the systems finished by mid-October,” she said.
At Thomas Jefferson, visitors will have to be buzzed into the entryway at the main entrance, then go through the office to get past the second set of doors, which will be locked except during passing periods. An individual office was eliminated to open up a path from the entryway into the main office. In the office, they will have to sign in and be cleared, then buzzed into the rest of the building.
“We’re really excited about the new security,” said Assistant Principal JoAnna Letz.
The arrangement will help keep students and staff safe, she said.
In the coming months, a system like Edison’s will be installed at T.J., making the check-in process more secure.
The card key system at T.J. will give teachers access to the building at any time of day while still keeping others out. Card readers were not installed at every door but at seven or eight strategically located around the campus, Murillo said.
“It is something we plan to continue to roll out as we have the money,” she said.
One of the entrances improved and equipped with a card reader was a door into the special education area, said Staci Pettit, director of facilities, maintenance and custodial services for the district. A window was installed so those inside the building could see who was outside the door.
“This entrance is entirely ADA accessible now,” she said.
The installation of new security cameras at Abraham Lincoln and Crescent Elementary this summer completed the district-wide replacement of older cameras with new ones that produce a sharper image, Murillo said.
Another new safety feature for the school district is Speak Out CB — a system for contacting officials with concerns or comments, Murillo said.
“We’re really excited to provide one point of contact for parents, students and staff to communicate through,” she said. “If you see something, say something. Our goal is to keep every student and every staff member safe in our district.”
People can call or text 712-318-1719, use the link on the district’s mobile app or email firstname.lastname@example.org.