Minooka looks at beefing up school security
BY KRIS STADALSKY For the Herald News December 22, 2012 12:04AM
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:35AM
The shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has Minooka Grade School District 201 re-examining security at all seven of its schools, even though they currently have an effective security plan, Superintendent Al Gegenheimer said Wednesday.
“In light of what happened in Connecticut, this recent tragedy raises several issues that have not been encountered in the past,” Gegenheimer said.
For one, the procedure allowing visitors to enter schools will be strictly enforced.
All schools have two locked doors, with a foyer in between. Visitors first have to identify themselves and their reason for the visit through an intercom outside the school.
Once the door is remotely unlocked by a staff member, the visitor enters the foyer where he or she is supposed to show identification before the second door is unlocked into the office.
Sometimes staff members are more relaxed about the process when they personally know people and unlock both doors without checking identification, Gegenheimer said.
It’s because one of the jobs of staff members is to make the school a welcoming place to parents and the community.
“In the past we have tried to expedite them coming in,” said Gegenheimer.
School officials will also be re-investigating the purchase of biometric thumb print scanners that would be used by parents or guardians of students once inside the foyer. The district began looking at the systems a year ago.
Digital thumbprints would be collected from parents and guardians during registration along with a photo for the school’s system.
When a parent or gardian needs entry to the school, they would scan their thumbprint once inside the foyer and staff would check it against the photo ID.
The biometric system is not as detailed as a police finger print method, said district Network Manager Aaron Souza. It checks about 30 to 36 points.
While the thumbprint scanner would not have prevented the Connecticut shootings, it would add another layer of security at the schools, Gegenheimer said.
Other stepped up measures include presentations by other security companies as the district looks at additional options, Souza said.
“Things could be happening as a result,” said Gegenheimer, “some additional things law enforcement and emergency workers are recommending for the future.”
Gegenheimer spoke with the chiefs of police from Joliet, Shorewood and Minooka after the shootings, and school principals had visits and discussions with their local police departments.
Police already make security checks at the schools, but will be stepping up their visits and their presence.
“We have great cooperation with the police departments,” Gegenheimer said.