Published: January 15, 2013 12:00PM
LIBERTY CENTER — Much like public air transportation after 9/11, a new and permanent era of security precautions and public inconvenience has arrived for area school districts.
Liberty Center Local Schools is at the forefront of that evolution, thanks to its new state-of-the-art security system.
“Our new system is top notch, far above anything I’ve seen in the other districts I’ve served,” said superintendent Kristi Thompson, who began her current position on Aug. 1. “We started looking at this issue even before the shooting in Connecticut. Improving school safety was a priority the board gave me when I was hired.”
The system covers the interior and exterior areas of all district buildings and is expected to be fully operational by mid-February.
“All exterior doors are on a timing system and they will automatically lock at 8:10 a.m., which is eight minutes after the first bell and three minutes after classes start,” said district technology director Jeff Kirkendall. “After that, any visitors will be required to show a picture identification, which laser cameras inside the school will be able to read right down to their driver’s license number and date of birth.”
The vendor chosen by the district for its cutting-edge technology system is Digital Cops-SMS pro Tech, which is based on Ohio and has an office in Toledo.
“There are a lot of great security features and we are really impressed with this company,” said Kirkendall. “I don’t want to make all the details public because the information may be used by someone who wants to harm people. But what I can tell you is that all corners and locations of the our buildings, outside and inside, are covered. That includes the parking lot and the street in front of the school. If you park there, we know about it, even the make and model of your vehicle.”
Thompson said the Digital Cops-SMS pro Tech has vast experience with infrastructure design and implementation and maintains up-to-date certifications with key hardware and software companies.
“I am extremely impressed with this company. They are former police officers, they understand the pitfalls and all the needs, and they have seen things that don’t work. Their people have been here several times for walk-throughs and obtaining feedback from staff members.”
The security system’s cost of $15,000 was provided an anonymous community member.
“The most important thing a school can do besides education is keeping students safe,” said Thompson. “We are fortunate that someone in the community feels so strongly to provide such a generous donation for that purpose. I have been impressed with the generosity of this community since I came here. Whenever there is a need, someone fills it.”
Kirkendall said outside cameras can be viewed inside the elementary office, middle school office, high school office and central office.
“If you are coming into our buildings, we are going to know about it,” he said. “All of our staff members are wearing badges with their names. We will know everyone who comes in and exits, even during non-school hours.”
Kirkendall added that the new system will not affect existing times during the school day when the public visits to purchase tickets for athletic events.
“All of our tickets are sold at the middle school office, so those people we be entering the same door. They will just have to present identification and state the purpose of their visit before they are allowed inside.”
Reaction to the new system has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Thompson.
“The community is thankful; it doesn’t bother people to be inconvenienced,” she said. “I’ve haven’t heard one complaint. I’ve even received a few voice mails from people thanking me.”
The security system is part of a larger and continuing plan to keep students safe.
“We continue to receive support from sheriff’s office and fire department,” said Thompson. “Law enforcement officers will still be here at random and unannounced times. We recently had a $25,000 communication system upgrade and our new security system is compatible to it. We have even integrated it into our buses. We have done this right.”
“The new security system will open the door for even more things to make us safe,” added Kirkendall. “It’s not just physical security, but also things to make the staff’s life easier. If we get a new building, the security system can be transferred to it.”
For more information about the new security system, call Kirkendall at 419-533-8606.