Gone are the days when anyone can waltz into any school building any time of the day and roam the corridors unannounced.
Now if you go up to a school in the middle of the day and find the main doors locked, it doesn't necessarily mean the school is closed for the day. It's just a part of new security measures being implemented at all schools under the Eastern School District.
The new policy is "not about restricting particular individuals from entering (a school)," according to a spokesman for the Eastern School District. "It's just about knowing who is within the walls of our schools," Ken Morrissey, director of communications with Eastern School District, told The Compass last week.
"We don't think it's going to prevent people from coming into a school that need to," Morrissey said. Pointing out, "our kids are in there and it's a learning environment," the spokesman said. "We just feel that before someone enters, we just wanna know who is entering our school."
The reason for the new measures is "simply the safety of our students and providing them a safe learning environment along with that of our staff - that's our priority," he said.
Persalvic Elementary in Victory was one of the latest schools to implement the system. The K-9 school has some 311 students. Having had the system for only a week or so, Principal Byron King said it's been working fine.
"The system is not necessarily meant to keep our community members out. It's to give us a better understanding of who's visiting our school, and who's in our school at certain times throughout the day. It's designed for the safety of the children in our school, following the Eastern School District's Safe and Caring Schools policy.
"It will also work in conjunction with our lock-down procedures inside the school, where students know what to do if an intruder enters our building."
King suggested the possibility of that happening was one of the reasons for the buzzer system being put in place.
Meanwhile, Ken Morrissey noted the new security systems were not prompted by any one, particular incident.
"The crux of it is we are moving towards ... ensuring that our schools are secure during instructional time. That does include the locking of doors and installation of buzzer systems, intercoms and video monitors."
Video cameras and buzzer systems are being installed outside the main entrances, while video monitors are being set up in the general office area. The monitors are designed to provide video surveillance to the outside main entrance. Visitors to the school have to buzz into the office by pressing a button outside the main entrance doorway. Inside, office personnel can unlock the outside door at the press of a button.
Morrisey pointed out the security systems are not new. "It's not recent in the sense it's been ongoing for a period of time, and schools have been aware of it. In the last six to eight months, we've done it with a great number of schools. The district has directed they do it. The vast majority of our schools already have something, and those that don't we're in the process of getting it done for them."
Over the last six to eight months, he said, the board has spent approximately $120,000 on the new security systems — money that's come from the Department of Education.
Of the 119 schools operated by the Eastern School District, he said there are only about eight to 10 where work still needs to be done. Tenders are out for some of those, and they will be done soon.
He predicted by the end of the next school year, every school should have something. "That could be a buzzer or a video monitor or a combination of both. But all have been instructed to be secure and have their school locked during instruction time."