Secured entrances add to safety at all schools
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
As horrific incidents occur at school campuses around the country, Crawford AuSable School District officials have added a new layer of security at all of their school buildings.
A secured entrance was installed at the Grayling Elementary School over the holiday break to close off the expansive entrance into the academic wings of the building. Similar entrances were installed at the Grayling Middle School and Grayling High School.
The entrances feature electronic locks. Visitors at the schools have to check in at the offices, register, and receive a visitor’s pass or bracelet in order the enter the buildings.
“Anybody that comes to the school, it forces them into the office so we know why they’re here,” said Grayling Middle School Principal Jeff Branch. “Before, they could walk through and we might catch them or we might not. Most people would check in, but there were times people would walk right through and we had no idea that they were in our building.”
Once the people are registered, office staff can push a button to unlock the doors leading into the schools.
Students can access the school offices from other doors while they are in the building. School staff use a keyless system, which records who is in the school’s hallways at all hours of the day.
“I absolutely love it because now we can see every single person coming into the building,” said Grayling High School Principal Donna Boughner. “We can see them and we can have a lot of eyes on them.”
At the middle school, the entrance of the building is open for several after school events and activities, which are held in the building. The rest of the building, however, remains secured so no one can enter those areas of the building.
“Everything is locked down and the academic wing doors are locked,” Branch said.
The secured entrances were part of a security plan that was developed by the Crawford AuSable School District’s Board of Education five years ago.
Since the Grayling Middle School went through a total remodeling project last year, a new entrance was created to align with secured entrance to the school. Space was added extending out from the school to provide a covering when there is inclement weather.
Crawford AuSable School District Superintendent Joe Powers said plans to alter the school buildings needed approval from the Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes.
“It’s actually a long process,” Powers said. “It’s not something that can be done with a snap of a finger.”
The cost for the new entrances is $55,000.
Powers stressed that school officials did not want to have buzzers to notify staff when someone wanted to enter the school. He added those systems only create an illusion of security.
“We do not believe a buzzer system enhances school security because eventually, people get used to buzzing people in,” Powers said.
The new entrance at the middle school has been greeted by parents and students with their stamp of approval.
“It’s been seamlesss here at the middle school,” Branch said. “It has not been a tough transition for people.”
At the elementary school, there has been some more difficult accommodations from parents who want to have access to their children. The school has an enrollment of 800 students.
Powers said providing security and limiting who comes and goes into the schools is a tradeoff.
“Truly, if we want to enhance student security and student safety, we have to limit access,” Powers said. “It goes hand in hand.”
Grayling Elementary School Principal Gina Brunskill said parents will get used to the new security measures as time goes on.
“There is no doubt that it’s been a difficult transition for all of us,” Brunskill said. “It’s really a different way to doing business in order to keep our students safer, but once we get through the social aspects, it will be positive for the kids.”
Boughner said the investment into the schools shows parents and children that the school staff cares about them.
“We promote caring and that’s the biggest way to have security is caring about everybody,” Boughner said. “When kids feel cared for, they feel like they belong somewhere. We don’t want our community to feel like they’re not welcome. There welcome here, they just now have to come into the office.”
Powers noted that the school liaison officer, funded through a partnership between the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and school district, is a huge part of the school’s security plan. Deputy Matt Swope recently assumed that position. Swope is at all large school events, activities, and sporting matches.
Brunskill said hiring Samantha Rogers as the school nurse at the elementary school and bringing on Kelsey Boyce as the school social worker were also proactive measures school leaders have taken.
“The social worker’s job is really to head off those things, so we have a finger on the pulse of students, and where they’re at and what really might be going on with them,” Brunskill said. “That’s preventative and that’s been part of the strategy.”
Nineteen school shootings have occurred on school campuses across the United States since the beginning of 2018. Seventeen people were killed and more than 15 injured in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Closer to home, a suburban Chicago teen shot and killed his parents in a dorm at Central Michigan University on Friday, March 2. The campus went into lockdown for several hours, and measures were taken for student safety before they were released for spring break.
Brunskill said the secure entrances would stop intruders who want to commit violent acts in the building.
“It’s one more barrier between our children and someone that may want to harm them,” she said.
Branch said the entrances are a start on what should begin a large focus on securing places for education.
“It’s a step in the right direction to increase security for our students and our staff,” he said. “We as country need to continue to do more to make sure all children in school are safe.”