Shawnee Mission elementary, middle schools getting new door lock upgrades

Shawnee Mission doors

Shawnee Mission is upgrading its elementary and middle school doors with button-controlled locks. Above, doors outside of a Shawnee Mission elementary school. Photo credit Juliana Garcia

At its meeting Monday night, Shawnee Mission’s board of education unanimously approved spending $250,000 to install new hardwired buttons that have greater control over locking and unlocking the front doors at district elementary and middle schools.

  • The move comes days before the start of the 2022-23 school year, which begins for most elementary and middle school students on Thursday.

Why it matters: The new buttons are aimed at making it easier for school staff to lock and unlock the main doors at these schools, by pressing a button inside the school office.

  • Currently, the front door locks at these schools are controlled by wireless remotes and typically do not control all sets of main entrance doors, according to the district.

Which schools are impacted: All elementary schools will receive these new control buttons, as well as all middle schools except Hocker Grove.

  • Hocker Grove will not be upgraded at this time because when visitors are buzzed in at that school currently, they arrive in the office itself already, not in a vestibule entrance as at other schools, Deputy Superintendent Gilhaus said.
  • Since Hocker Grove is up for renovations under the latest bond project, Gilhaus said a portion of that funding will be dedicated to creating a vestibule entrance and automatically including the hardwired door control buttons at a future date.

Why is this needed? Previously, staff at these schools had to lock and unlock the main doors with wireless fob buttons.

  • The district says there have been issues of these wireless remotes being misplaced, losing battery power, having slow response times and having their signals interfered with, making it harder to lock and unlock doors reliably.

The details: According to board documents, the new hardwired buttons will “more uniformly secure district attendance facilities” and “reinforce the importance of having ‘eyes on’ visitors requesting access to the building.”

  • Each school office is set to have installed two sets of control buttons that can lock and unlock all sets of a school’s main entryway doors, eliminating the need for staff members to look for fobs to control the doors, Gilhaus said.
  • When a visitor comes to a school’s main entrance, a staff member in the office can unlock the doors with a press of the new button and then lock all the doors again once the visitor is inside the building.
  • The new hardwired buttons will control a school’s main exterior entry doors, as well as doors form the vestibule and foyer entrances, and office-to-building egress doors, according to board documents.
  • Installation will be immediate, according to board documents.

Zooming out: When asked if this new button system was in response to recent school shootings, including a massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead and a shooting inside the office at Olathe East High School that left three people wounded, SMSD spokesperson David Smith said it was not.

  • “Rather, we are always working to improve our safety and security processes, and this was an area where we identified that improvements could be made,” Smith said.