Many Shawnee Mission schools opened this week with a new level of security that will become the standard in the district.
Over the summer 16 schools underwent upgrades to secure the entrances to the schools. John Douglass, the former Overland Park Police Chief who took over as head of safety and security for the school district this year, said revamping security started at the elementary schools and will continue through all of the districts school buildings.
The upgraded buildings will have a secure perimeter that has restricted access for visitors. All of the exterior doors are locked during school and a visitor will need to be buzzed into the school through the office. In fact, school personnel have three opportunities to deny access.
The outside entrance is visible to the school secretary and monitored. A visitor must tell why they are coming to the school before being buzzed in. But the entrance vestibule and the office area also are secure so a visitor or intruder can be stopped at any point. Visitors also must exit through the office.
While school shootings across the country have focused attention on school safety, that is not a high frequency event. “One of those will last a community a lifetime,” Douglass said, but other issues, such as parental custody disputes, are the more likely scenarios that a school will face and schools need to be prepared for all situations.
The schools also are locking gates at fences around the schools and during arrival and dismissal, staff, in touch with radios, is monitoring doors and approach areas around the school.
Safety and security “can’t be fixed with just brick and mortar,” Douglass said. Another part of the strategy is to “have well-trained staff” on how to handle emergencies. The schools also are working on an emergency operations plan.