While not part of the initial plan, district officials will use remaining funds from the 2010 Rollover Bond to construct single-point entry ways at every school in an effort to make them more secure.
“In 2008 and 2009 when we were planning for the bond, single points of entry were not a super high priority, even though security was,” explained Keith Shaffer, operations director for the Carson City School District. “Because of recent events in the rest of the country — the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary — we have taken a second look at that master plan.”
As schools have been remodeled in previous bonds, a controlled entry system has typically been added. At those sites, once school is in session, all exterior doors are locked from the outside. Only one door remains open, and it leads to a locked vestibule where visitors must check in with the front office. Once visitors are approved, office staff buzz them through the second door, giving them access to the school.
Similar systems will now be built at all remaining schools.
Shaffer acknowledges the entrances will not prevent all school-related crimes, but said it is impossible to prepare for every scenario that could involve violence.
“Every event we’ve had in the nation has been unique,” he said. “We’ve learned from each one. This is a means to control the school so that every person who goes into the school has to check in.”
When deciding which security measures to take, Shaffer said, they must balance the cost as well as accessibility to parents and other visitors, especially with the recent emphasis on creating partnerships as outlined in the strategic plan.
“Under the direction of (Superintendent Richard) Stokes and the general mentality of the community, we are an open and inviting community,” Shaffer said. “We want to be an open and inviting school district.”
Which schools will be affected
Some schools — Carson and Eagle Valley middle schools and Empire and Seeliger elementary schools — already have the single-entry systems. Bordewich-Bray, Fritsch, Mark Twain and Fremont elementary schools, as well as Carson and Pioneer high schools will need to be remodeled.
The open campuses at Carson and Pioneer high schools and Fritsch Elementary School may pose more of a problem, Shaffer said, in limiting access.
Preliminary sketches outline external hallways that will connect the buildings at Fritsch Elementary School and fencing that will enclose the buildings on each high school campus.
“Right now, conceptually, it looks like a pretty simple solution,” he said.
Carson High School’s athletic office, now at the front of the building, will be moved back where the attendance office is now. Once school starts, all doors will be locked except one on the west side of the building, which will lead to the locked-in vestibule.
Shaffer clarified that while the high schools has 52 doors — as pointed out during a recent school uniform meeting — the majority of them cannot be opened from the outside.
A decorative fence will enclose the Tech Center and ROTC building, requiring visitors to check-in at the front office before entering those buildings as well.
Fencing will be used at Pioneer High School as well, directing visitors to the main entrance off of Corbett Street. The improvements there will be part of a larger remodel planned there for the second phase of the bond, Shaffer said.
Time for change
The cost for the security improvements are estimated at $3.15 million of the $5.65 million leftover from the $25 million first phase of the bond, the bulk of which went to the remodeling Eagle Valley Middle and Empire Elementary schools.
In order to complete the entry systems, Shaffer said, other projects such as parking lot improvements and replacing some roofs were put on hold.
Barbara Myers, a Carson City School Board trustee, said she believed it to be a prudent trade-off.
“Those were things they hadn’t even brought to the board yet,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with delaying things like that.”
Myers had been an outspoken critic of the school district in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and six staff members were killed on Dec. 14.
She called on district officials to make the sites in Carson City more secure and applauds the plan.
“It’s amazing how we can get stuff done when we are all working together and are on the same page,” she said. “I think it’s a great step.”
Work on the new entry ways will begin this summer. The majority are expected to be complete by the time school starts in the fall. Fritsch and Bordewich-Bray elementary schools and Pioneer High School should be finished by January 2014, Shaffer said.
“The safety of our students is of prime importance to us,” he said.