Anoka-Hennepin makes plans to intensify secondary school security

After ramping up security at all of its elementary schools last summer, the Anoka-Hennepin School District is making plans to do the same at all secondary schools this year.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 prompted the district to make schools harder targets for someone who wants to cause harm.

“Our secondary schools – our high schools and middle schools – have had an advantage in the past over elementary schools,” said Chuck Holden, chief operations officer for the district, in a presentation to the school board Feb. 24.

These schools share police liaison officers and boast multiple security cameras, and all of the high schools have some system for keyless entry currently in place, according to Holden.

After input from local law enforcement, the district added vestibule entrances, a system that scans driver’s licenses and keyless entry points in all 24 elementary schools, two early childhood centers and a special education center in 2013.

Now, staff recommends those same modifications be implemented in secondary schools this spring and summer.

Anoka Middle School for the Arts and Roosevelt Middle School in Blaine are the only two schools of the district’s 11 regular secondary schools that require the construction of vestibules.

In total, Holden estimates the cost of secondary security modifications will be close to one million dollars. The money will come from the existing capital budget, funds that typically finance routine replacements – windows, ceiling tiles, carpets, etc. Those replacements will be held off for several years. There are alternate funds available to finance emergency repairs, Holden said.

Elementary security updates cost $1.4 million and came from the capital budget as well.

Reviewing elementary safety

“We think this perimeter security has worked out very well,” Holden said. “It was the recommendation of law enforcement that we move in this direction, and we think that parents have accepted that.”

The new system requires visitors check in with office staff from the vestibule. Visitors scan their driver’s license, and a badge prints directly into the vestibule.

Typically, the office secretary manages the system.

Each of the district’s 24 elementary schools see at least 20 visitors on a daily basis, Holden said. At the larger schools – he mentioned Andover Elementary and Ramsey Elementary – more than 100 visitors come into the buildings daily.

Though there was some confusion at first, parents have really embraced the system, knowing that safety is the number one priority, according to Steve Anderson, director of building and grounds.

“I think that our community is very appreciative of the hard work you’ve done here,” School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said.

Occasionally, there are hiccups.

The machines that scan licenses have had some issues with out-of-state IDs, particularly North Dakota and Wisconsin licenses, Anderson said. If swiping the card doesn’t work, the barcode usually does.

Additionally, checking in can become inconvenient when there is a large event at the school.

“What we’re recommending is that they use the check-in system for the large events, but we’re giving the building administration latitude on whether or not they actually use it,” Anderson said. “It can get kind of tough trying to get everybody through when you only have one card reader to swipe.”

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

  • melissa thompson

    While the Sandy Hook event was a horrible tragedy, one that we as a nation will never forget. With that said, it was really an isolated event. Not likely to happen again and certainly not here. So I cannot help but notice how quickly the district moved based on a very low risk and came up with funding, secured contractors and completed the projects and is eyeing even more. Yet teachers have been forced to go without a contract for almost a year. Support staff have been laid off by the district citing money as the issue. It just seems to me that spending $2.4 million dollars to make building modifications based on a very low risk was a misdirection of funds.

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