New security system in place at Rockland-area schools
Rockland — As Regional School Unit 13 students return to their classrooms this week, visitors will notice a significant change in entrances to the schools.
Each of the 11 schools in the district have been equipped with an electronic entry system that is operated by school administrative assistants.
The doors will be locked once school starts and remain that way until students are dismissed, said Business Manager Scott Vaitones.
A person wishing to enter the school during those hours will need to push a button on the outside of the building. There is a camera mounted near the button and two-way communications with the office are opened once a person presses it, he said. Once the purpose of a visit is determined, office staff can "buzz" the person into the building and if someone is unknown to the staff, they may be asked to show identification.
The system at Oceanside High School East in Rockland is a bit more sophisticated than the other schools with the installation of security cameras inside the building, which will constantly record. Office staff has the ability to change the angle of cameras as needed.
"I think all schools have been talking about security for the last four, five, six years, but [Newtown] brought it to the forefront," Vaitones said when asked if the cameras were in response to the December 2012 shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 26 people.
The system cost about $3,000 for each school, totaling about $30,000 district-wide, he said.
A letter went out to all parents in the district Aug. 28 to inform them of the change.
Parents dropping children off late to elementary schools must escort their child into the building.
"We hope that this new entrance method increases our security within our schools and deters any unthinkable acts that could occur," Superintendent Lew Collins wrote in the letter to parents. "We all realize that there are no methods for school security that are 100 percent guaranteed, but this is a big step in the right direction."
Vaitones said in some of the schools, staff already use identification badges and the district will be looking into whether to implement them at all the schools. However, he said, the badges are created by the same company that take school photos, so they do not become available until October. If the district were to mandate everyone to carry identification badges, the district would need the ability to make them in-house, he said.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.