Kettering takes steps to boost safety in schools

Kettering+takes+steps+to+boost+safety+in+schools

Photo: Nick Shupe

The “warm and welcoming” environment that Fairmont High School has hung its hat on the past several years is being tested by security improvements now under way. The security upgrades are no surprise since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last December, but a lot of students and residents are interested in exactly what the changes will be.

Fairmont began putting its security upgrade plan in action this school year by assigning parking spaces and locking all exterior doors during school hours. Students have also probably noticed a newly constructed fence near West Unit that closes off the courtyard. However, these are just the beginning of major, and minor, architectural and logistical upgrades that Fairmont will be undergoing throughout the school year.

Security bullet list copy for webKen Lackey, the district’s director of Business Services, was put in charge of orchestrating the safety changes in the district. He says the upgrades at Fairmont and the district’s two middle schools and eight elementary schools will cost right around $1 million.

“All 11 schools are getting improvements by having the entrances secured by vestibules and buzzing in visitors,” said Lackey. “Additional cameras will be located at all schools to better monitor selected areas of the buildings.”

The vestibules are being created to organize and make it easier to keep track of people entering and leaving the school buildings. They will be located at the main entrances of all schools in the district. These new entryways will operate with a buzz-in type process. Visitors will check in, then be provided passes and allowed to go about their business. “The idea behind the vestibules is to keep kids as safe as you possibly can, without shutting down the entire operation,” said Kettering Superintendent Jim Schoenlein.

At Fairmont, the main entrance and entrance from the athletic parking lot will get vestibules, and the Athletic Office will receive an outdoor ticket window.

“We want to limit the amount of people flowing in and out of the school,” said Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf. “The vestibules will help with that.”

Another, perhaps less visible, upgrade will be an electronic door access system that will be installed at eight doors around the high school. All teachers will be given an electronic I.D. card that, when placed in proximity to the door, will unlock it. A few of these doors are located near the Athletic Office, Main Office, and the teacher parking lots.

Speaking of parking lots, the parking pass system for students has been under way for a few weeks now. The system, in which each student driver is assigned a numerically marked parking space and required to park there during school hours, is another effort in beefing up the school’s security.

According to the administration, the new parking system is working effectively. “It’s almost been perfect,” said VonHandorf. “The kids are doing a great job with it.”

Not all students agree with the changes taking place, though, and some think it’s a little overbearing. Senior Jake McCarty is less than thrilled about the upgrades. “I understand the need for the extra security, but it’s a hassle to have to adjust to all this as a senior,” he said.

Lackey said he understands the frustration but feels these adjustments are crucial to the schools’ safety. “There will be an adjustment period for everyone,” he said. “Access to our buildings is going to be less convenient for everyone. However, I believe that in the long run everyone will appreciate the added security measures.”

Lackey said the security upgrades will build upon the good environment that already exists in Kettering’s schools.

“I feel our students and staff are safe. We work hard to know our students and parents and try to avoid any issues before they occur,” said Lackey. “Along with continuing all of our previous efforts, adding these new security measures should give everyone a sense of safety at schools. Schools are still a very safe place to be.”

Editor-in-chief Sam Barton contributed to this story.