OSKALOOSA — The world’s just not the same as it was when the parents and grandparents of today’s elementary school students were growing up.
In the post-Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland society, schools are trying to be more proactive in protecting their students.
Currently, visitors to Oskaloosa elementary school ring a buzzer at the main doors to the building. Secretaries in the main office buzz guests in, who then stop by the main office to check in, get a name tag and go about their business in the building.
That procedure will be slightly different in 2020.
When students come back from winter break, parents, grandparents, volunteers and other visitors will be buzzed in and visit the main office, just like before. The next step, however, will be to present identification to be scanned by the Lobbyguard system, which will also take a photo. A badge will print out, and visitors can proceed into the school.
Oskaloosa Elementary School Principal Sarah McGlothlan said the school is not trying to limit the access of families to the school.
“We like having our families here,” she said. “We’re just trying to ensure that everyone is safe.”
McGlothlan said the school district has been working with Emergency Management and local law enforcement in reviewing the security of buildings within the district.
“And in doing that this was one of the things that came out of the work that we’ve done in regard to our emergency management plan,” she said. “So it’s being put in place at the elementary to start with. And going to see how it goes and look at the potential, I think, of moving it throughout the district.”
Oskaloosa Elementary School Secretary Amanda Foster said the process is very quick and not a huge change.
“You’re still coming in, you’re still checking in with us at the office,” she said. “It’s just a different way to check in.”
Oskaloosa Community School District Superintendent Paula Wright said the Lobbyguard device, when scanning IDs, immediately runs a background check on everyone who checks in.
“Lobbyguard is a visitor management system that will help our building secretary have a better understanding of who is in our building, how long they are there, and the reason for their visits,” she said. “The school will be able to immediately know if someone is a sex offender, criminal, or have another legal restriction limiting their access to the building. We wanted to find a system that was easy to use for our visitors while keeping student safety as the objective.”
Wright said the initial investment for Lobbyguard was $6,900. The ongoing costs include the use of the software at $500 per year and the cost of printed badges will vary depending on use.
Foster said people won’t really be able to bypass a visit to the main office.
“Teachers will be looking to make sure that all visitors will have their tags on. If they don’t see them, they will be redirected to the office,” she said. “And of course, the office will still be allowing people in with the buzzer system, so we are going to be watching for those visitors to stop in anyway.”
McGlothlan said parents have been notified as to the upcoming changes.
“We’ve put signs up on the doors to remind parents this week that when you come back on January 2, if you want to go down to the classrooms where you’re picking up your child early, you need your ID in order to do that,” she said. “But if they’re just coming in to drop something off and they’re not requesting to drop down into their classroom areas, they won’t need that ID.”
McGlothlan said the updated security procedures are an opportunity to be proactive “in ensuring that people who come in are people that we want around our students within the school system.”
“It’s just one more layer of security,” she said. “And this is actually being implemented already at Pella, Albia uses it. So we’ve had an opportunity to talk to both of those systems about implementation. I think we’re ready.”
“We’re excited,” she said. “We’re really excited for this to start.”
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.