A year after Shawnee Mission School District patrons approved a multi-million bond issue that would be used in part to improve security, district schools now have security systems “as advanced as any district in the country,” according to Director of Safety and Security John Douglass.
New video monitoring systems, door monitors and remote locking devices are now in place at all five high schools and their associated elementary schools. Installation of the security features at the district’s five middle schools will be completed by the end of this summer.
The improvements cost approximately $20 million to implement, just under 10 percent of the total bond issue of $233 million. In a demonstration of how the new features work on Thursday, Douglass noted that a good deal of the $20 million was spent on construction costs to reconfigure school entrances at older buildings like SM North.
The new system includes between 100 and 125 digital video cameras at each of the high schools and 30 to 40 video cameras at the elementaries. Feeds from cameras at all the schools in a high school’s feeder footprint are available to a resource officer stationed at each high school, who monitors them throughout the day. If suspicious activity arises at any of the feeder schools, the resource officer will be able to quickly deploy other officers to respond.
Douglass said that the new high-tech systems represent an important step toward protecting Shawnee Mission students while they are on district property. But, he said, the goal is to extend the district’s security efforts beyond the classroom.
“This is the very first step we are taking in the protection of our children,” he said. “But you have to take a strategic look at protection in total…My new goal areas are in protecting kids 24/7. You can’t be in their houses and we can’t take care of them at night, but we can help educate their parents in what that means — the ability to have smoke detectors in the house, the ability to deal with stranger danger and domestic abuse and all of these things. These are areas we are moving towards.”