Over the summer, the Centennial School District has worked hard to ensure that when school kicks off, students and staff will feel more safe and secure.
A visible component of the upgrades that students, staff and community members will be able to see is the new visitor management system kiosks. There will be one kiosk in each of the district's buildings, with the exception of the east and west building of the high school. After all of the construction is completed, a kiosk will be placed in each of those buildings for the 2017-18 school year.
“The school is the center of the community, and ultimately what we want for students is for them to feel safe and respected. The idea behind this system is that it is simplified and automated,” said Centerville Elementary Principal Wayne Whitwam. “We are not trying to be unfriendly, we
just want to create a safe environment for students.”
Lino Lakes Public Safety Director John Swenson said, “The new automated check-in system will afford visitors the opportunity to very quickly check into buildings, will afford the school district an opportunity to secure all the doors and, from a law enforcement perspective, will enable us to know exactly who is in the building if we are responding to an event.”
In previous years all the doors to the district's buildings were unlocked and visitors were supposed to check in at the office. “The front doors on all of our buildings were wide open, so whether that was a desired visitor or any visitor, we knew that it wasn't the best practice and procedure to have in our buildings going forward,” said Director of Technology Mike Christensen.
Now when arriving at any of the buildings all of the doors, with the exception of the lobby doors, will be locked. Upon arriving, the visitor must approach the kiosk and swipe their ID or manually enter their information. The visitor then has to select a reason for the visit and an ID badge will be printed. The person then hits the call button on the kiosk and the office staff will unlock the door.
Superintendent Brian Dietz estimated with an ID the process takes about 15 seconds; without an ID, the process can take around a minute, because the visitor has to call and tell office staff why they are visiting. The visitor will then enter into the office, where an office staff member will print them a badge.
“We are taking the steps to secure our doors and ensure that we are much more intentional about identifying who is in our buildings and why,” Dietz said. “It gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect and make sure that we have all of the information that we need before someone comes in our building. We know that 99.9 percent of people who are coming into our building are coming in for the right reasons, but in today's day and age you have to account for that .1 [percent] that might not be.”
When the visitor leaves the building, they must swing by the office to give staff their badge. The badge has a QR code that the staff member will scan, which will check the visitor out of the system.
“We are really proud of the fact that this provides that layer of security that we feel like we need, but more importantly, it puts us in a really strong position to secure our doors and allow students and staff to do what they need to do, and that is to educate and have a great experience in our school system,” Dietz said.
Other security improvements, which were funded by the 2014 capital levy, include building access control, security cameras, exterior and emergency LED lighting in public spaces and a VoIP phone system. In order to control who is entering the buildings, all of the staff in the district have been given a badge that they must scan in order to gain access to the building.
Christensen estimates that around 355 security cameras were added to the district's facilities. In the past, the middle school and high school had limited security cameras and none of the elementary schools had security cameras. “It allows us to be more accurate and to be able to look back and see. If there is an incident, we can get accurate information and respond appropriately to it,” he said. The district can also share security camera footage with the police departments should they need it.
The VoIP phone system has increased the district’s capabilities to communicate with others. If there is an emergency and the district has to get a message out to staff, it can be sent through a phone's speaker, the intercom system or even by text message.
“Safety and security of our students, buildings, staff and our five communities are our number one priority,” Dietz said. “We couldn't have done this without the support in the 2014 capital levy, so I am so appreciative for the investment they have made. We have taken the things we said we were going to do, and we have implemented them.”