ALTOONA, Iowa -- Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday a School Safety Bureau which is geared towards preventing a school shooting in Iowa. The plan includes rapid response training for teachers, staff, student,s and local first responders in Iowa's 327 school districts.
While the state is working to make schools safer, school districts are already taking steps on their own. Recently the Southeast Polk community school district decided to secure its buildings with more than just a camera doorbell outside the main entrance, creating a second barrier of locked doors that visitors can’t get through without first checking in with the front office.
“When coming into the building, if we didn't catch them coming into the office they basically had free access to the building,” Altoona Elementary principal Steven Stotts said. “We wanted to put an extra layer of security in place so that when [visitors] came in then they would be greeted by the secretary or administrative assistant and after that, we actually had a better view of the individual who was entering the building.”
The district security and safety committee started this project back in the summer of 2018. It first started by adding a second layer of security to all secondary buildings, like the junior high and high school, and finished it with elementary buildings getting the security enhancement this school year.
Now at every Southeast Polk school building, a visitor is granted access inside from the outdoor security camera doorbell and will be allowed through the first set of doors, but the second set of doors will be locked, forcing them to check in with the front office before being allowed into the rest of the building.
“It used to be a situation that we had maybe four drills a year, two fire and two tornado drills. Now safety looks much different in school buildings. Again, it’s not a scare tactic. It’s just to make sure we are prepared if something were to ever happen. I sure hope that doesn't happen but we have to take some other things into consideration to make sure our students and staff members are safe at all times,” Stotts said.
The whole project ended up costing the district over $1 million but they said it's worth it knowing safety is a top priority for many of their families.
“When we initially looked at the project the committee talked about making it as simple as possible to obviously keep down the cost and expenses for the project. For our building, it worked out really well, but for other buildings, like for example Willowbrook Elementary, the junior high and high school, it was a little more complex because the entry into the building was a little bit further than the main office area. They had to make a few extra changes to upgrade that,” Stotts said.