Schools tighten security
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 12, 2013

West Branch Community Schools will tighten its security starting Jan. 15, offering visitors only one unlocked door during school hours at each building.

The school district has been installing key card locks at the buildings for more than a year, and Middle School Principal Sara Oswald said enough have been installed to make the switch at all schools.

The doors will be locked from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

West Branch Middle School and West Branch High School will only have unlocked doors near their main offices; Hoover Elementary will allow access near Central Office, which is on the north side of the building.

Oswald said the school district hosts security meetings with police and sheriff officials, and that “single-point access” has been “on the agenda for a couple of years.” The change was not a direct result of the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

“But did the conversation take place sooner because of Newtown? Maybe,” she said. “It has been on our to-do list for a while.”

The high school and Hoover Elementary got key card locks sooner primarily because of people using the gymnasiums after hours, she said. WBMS does not have a gymnasium.

“Eventually, we hope to have a buzz-in system,” Oswald said.

All of the unlocked entrances have camera surveillance, allowing those in the respective offices to see who is approaching.

Hoover Elementary has two unlocked doors right now, with the second near the principal’s office.

Elementary Principal Jess Burger said Central Office will handle sign-ins for visitors and parents picking up their children. That entrance was chosen because it is handicapped-accessible.

The nurse’s office is close to the south entrance of Hoover, so parents picking up sick children may make arrangements to meet someone at the south door, Burger said.

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