Friday, April 2, 2010

C-1 to Purchase Metal Detectors and Security Doors


By Mary Kay Morrow

When students walk through the doors of Hickman Mills C-1 schools next year, they will be passing through nearly $685,000 in added security measures. 

Last Tuesday, the Hickman Mills C-1 school board voted to purchase ten portable metal detectors to be used at its high school and middle schools next year, as well as enhanced door security at all elementary schools.

In the past, district personnel have expressed concerns that metal detectors are not a time-efficient way to get kids in and out of buildings. However, the walk-through Garrett PD 6500i metal detectors chosen by the district are reported to be able to accommodate as many as 60 people a minute, and the detectors can readily indicate the actual position of any metal objects. 

These metal detectors are used widely—including at KCMO schools and all US airports—and are considered cutting-edge.

The ten units will be used as follows: four at Ruskin High School, four at the 8th and 9th grade center (currently Hickman Mills High School) and two at the 6th and 7th grade center (currently Smith-Hale Middle School).  Portability will allow the detectors to be used at athletic games and other district events as well. 

The metal detectors will cost roughly $36,000, and be funded by the district’s reserves, which were considered slim by auditors last December.
The lock-down doors for the district’s elementary schools have a base bid of nearly $650,000. Enhanced door security in the district will include new exterior doors as well as electro-mechanical locks, proximity card readers, cameras and intercoms on selected doors for controlled access.

“The basic design is intended to keep people out (of the schools) that should not be there,” said architect Mark Spurgeon.

Board members hope that the metal detectors and enhanced doors will help increase security at the district’s schools.

Hickman Mills C-1 has experienced a string of violent incidents involving teenagers in the past year.  Two students were murdered, and two loaded guns have been discovered at Ruskin High School.

Most recently, a HMHS 14-year old student was shot in the hand by one of her classmates last Thursday with either an Airsoft pistol or possibly a pellet gun.

Hickman Mills School District spokesman John Baccala said a girl walked into the school office at Hickman Mills claiming to have been shot.
“The student’s parent took her for medical treatment for a minor flesh wound to the back of her hand,” said Baccala.

According to Baccala, the incident falls under the Safe Schools Act and as such, the student who shot her faces a ten-day suspension at a minimum and possibly other disciplinary action up to and including expulsion. 

“We are not going to tolerate having these at our schools,” said Baccala.

Police are investigating the incident that took place in a parking lot at the far west end of the Hickman campus near 90th Street and Santa Fe Road at 3:15pm.

In a district survey last year conducted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), just one percent of students and two percent of faculty indicated that they feel safe at school. 

Despite 15 weapon-related incidents in Hickman Mills in 2009 as listed on the DESE website, school officials maintain perception is worse than reality.

“Anything can be a weapon,” Dr. Williams said in January.

“I’ve seen serious things done with a paper clip or an earring,” said Board President Bonnaye Mims. 

Hickman Security Director John McEntee said that while people tend to focus on isolated incidents, school is still the safest place for kids to be.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the board proceeded with the heightened security measures.

The process to approve the security measures was met with some confusion.

Both measures were on Tuesday’s agenda as consent items, which are typically items that do not require discussion before a vote is taken. 

Board member Debbie Aiman had asked that metal detectors be pulled out of the consent agenda for further discussion. One item not pulled from consent was the enhanced door security measures.

Later in the meeting, however, Associate Superintendent Mitch Nutterfield brought up door security as part of his bond update. Nutterfield explained that $500,000 of the April 2008 bond money was originally intended only to replace some exterior doors.

“I want to make sure the board is clear on the sequence of events,” Nutterfield said. “The secondary schools would not be getting the cameras and what not.  There is not enough bond money left to do all of the buildings.”

Nutterfield later explained that the district might be able to come up with an intermediate solution for the high school doors--lockdown, but without new doors--until more money can be found.

Elementary school door security enhancements will be funded with the 2008 bond money and possibly contingency funds remaining from the $9.7 million Early Childhood Center, which might receive some federal funds (application pending).

Paul Gerber of Konrath, the project management group, clarified available contingency funds from the Childhood Center.
“We’re at a point where we feel comfortable with $878,000 in savings right now,” Konrath said. 

Emil Konrath went on to say that the “entire security package isn’t in (the bid.)  If push comes to shove, we may not be able to go forward.”
Architect Mark Spurgeon said that the contractors had allowed them to postpone the door enhancements at the secondary level until they know if there is funding available from the Childhood Center.

Board Member Teresa Edens expressed concern that the board had approved the measure earlier in the evening.

“It’s awkward that we approved this and don’t really know what we’re doing,” Edens said.  “We’re spending a million dollars with no details here.  I think we should know what we’re buying given our financial situation.”

“We have discussed this for the last three months,” Nutterfield countered. 

Board member Scott Jennings echoed Edens’ concerns, noting that the $500,000 in bond money originally allocated had now almost doubled.

“I have real questions on security,” Jennings said before making a motion to retract and reconsider the enhanced security vote.  Edens seconded the motion but the board defeated the motion to withdraw approval by a vote of 5 to 2, with Edens and Jennings voting to reconsider.

In addition to the security measures approved last week, Hickman currently employs off-duty, uniformed police officers full-time with two at each high school, one at each middle school and at the Star management school, and two who roam the eight elementary schools.

The board reorganization will take place on April 8 at 7:30 pm in the Administration Board Room. The next monthly meeting will be on April 15 at 7pm.  Watch the district website for changes.

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