SSISD board to address campus security
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 10, 2006 - Parents and visitors to Sulphur Springs elementary schools will soon likely be required to enter the building through the front door and proceed to the office where they must receive approval to continue into the school, according to school officials.

"We want to do all we can to keep our students safe and secure," said Superintendent Patsy Bolton during Monday night's regular school board meeting. "We have had some parents calling here, calling due to things they've seen on and in the news, wanting to know what we are doing to protect their children."

All entrance doors would be locked from the outside, with the exception of the front door. However, the doors would all have "panic bars" which could be depressed to allowed an immediate exit from the building in the event of an emergency.

Board vice president Foy Williams asked whether it would be possible, instead of locking all doors, to leave some unlocked with personnel stationed nearby to monitor those exiting and entering through those doors.

The measure is one of at least three security measures discussed Monday night to address potential safety concerns within the district, discovered during a recent evaluation of campuses.

The district is also considering installing a buzzer at or near the front door to each facility which can be activated in an emergency as well as installing additional fencing on three elementary campuses so that the fence encompasses the entire campus, up to the building, with no breaks or gaps.

Bolton noted that while a fence would not stop someone determined to get beyond it, it would definitely act as a deterrent to would-be vandals or those intent on entry.

"Anything that slows 'em down is good," said Sanders, who noted that in his experience as a police officer he has seen how fences do act as deterrents, sometimes dissuading individuals from trying to enter altogether, and in the case of more bold trespassers slows them down and attracks attention which would alert authorities to their presence in time to stop them.

Another school official noted that installing doors which lock on the outside but have panic bars which allow them to be opened from the inside is pretty standard. He also noted that many school require anyone entering the campus whether it be parents, community members or work crews, to enter through the main entrance, check in at the office. Work crews at those school are also required to presentbadge and proper identification in order to go beyond the office.

A district-wide safety audit is in the works, to be conducted by a safety committee composed of community members and representatives from each school campus, to evaluate how safe the schools are and areas in which safety and security could be improved.

In other matters, the school board accepted two improvement plans. One details improvements for Early Childhood Learning Center, all of the local elementary and Douglas Intermediate schools, and another detailing improvements for high school and middle school.

Each of the campus plans tells that school's plans to improve student achievement, a safe learning environment, employ highly qualified instructors and staff, and facility parent and community involvement The campus improvement plans will be used to form a district improvement plan, which will be presented to the school board next month for approval, then submitted to Texas Education Agency for evaluation.

Also during Monday night's board meeting, a representative from Claycomb Architects said that the first phase of high school and Early Childhood Learning Center construction projects continue to be on schedule for completion around March, with renovations to follow through the summer.

Right now, slab work is the primary focus for those projects with slab work on the science wing about 90 percent complete. Work appears slow going because they pour in parts, then have to wait for each section to dry and set before continuing. Once the slab is finished, holes will be drilled to accommodate plumbing work. Some walls inside the band hall are up, and steel support beams are being installed at both sites.

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