Improving safety and security is one of the top priorities for the planned renovations of Kirn and Wilson Middle Schools.
However, the projects won’t move forward unless a $37 million bond issue is approved by Council Bluffs Community School District voters in a special election from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Efforts would be made to address safety concerns inside and outside of the buildings.
“Our goal is to keep every student and every staff member safe,” said Vickie Murillo, superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District.
To improve safety outside, both buildings would have separate drop-off areas for buses and private vehicles. At Kirn, buses would use the current drop-off area, and a new drop-off lane would be created along the east side of the building with access from North Avenue. Cars would then exit back onto North Avenue. At Wilson, parents would use their current drop-off area, and buses would use the one on the front of the building, which faces 21st Street. In addition, exterior lighting would be enhanced.
The main offices at both buildings would be moved closer to the entrances so office workers would have a direct line of sight to the doors, Murillo said. Safety vestibules would be installed to better control who enters.
With or without the bond issue, visitor management systems like the one piloted last spring at Edison Elementary School will be installed. When a visitor enters the vestibule, they will be asked to present their driver’s license, and the bar code on the license will be scanned and the information saved on a computer. The system will check the sex offender registry for the person’s name. After a quick photo, the person’s destination and purpose will be obtained and entered into the computer. A name tag will then be printed out with the person’s name, photo, destination, purpose and the date and time of their visit. With this system, the school will be able to keep a record of all visitors.
Multiple layers of security would be created inside the buildings, and cameras would be positioned to cover a greater area. Security gates would be installed to block entry to educational areas while sports and arts facilities are open for public events. Entrances to the activity areas would be clearly marked.
“Our goal is to protect our classroom areas on weekends,” Murillo said. “Upon alarms or fire, the gates will open. The children would never be caught there when the gates wouldn’t go up.”
Fire walls would be upgraded to meet current standards, she said.
Currently, the alarm systems are up to date, but not all the walls are, said Diane Ostrowski, chief communications officer.
If the bond issue is approved, work at Kirn would begin in summer 2019 and wrap up in 2020, and Wilson would undergo renovation from 2020 to 2021. While each building was being done, students would attend classes in the former Target building at Mall of the Bluffs. About $5 million of the $37 million bond issue would be used to purchase and remodel that facility.
During a public meeting Aug. 16 at Wilson Middle School, Murillo said the district intends to retain ownership of the satellite facility for programs officials want to expand or relocate, such as the career and technical education program or the alternative learning program. She said she did not know what it would cost to adapt the building for those programs.
For more information, see the district’s website at cb-schools.org.