TWIN FALLS — High-definition security cameras. Checking if visitors are registered sex offenders. Locking building entrances.
These are a few changes you’ll notice at Twin Falls School District campuses this year. For students, the first day of school is Aug. 17.
School security has become a hot topic nationwide, particularly in light of school shootings like 2012 in Newtown, Conn. Here in Twin Falls, improving school security was identified as a key priority during safety audit in 2014 and has been an ongoing project since then.
“It’s really exciting to see that the Twin Falls School District has been very proactive to increase the safety of the students within our schools,” said operations director Ryan Bowman, who started on the job this summer.
Voters approved a nearly $74 million bond in 2014, with the bulk of the money going toward building two new elementary schools and a middle school. But about $1.3 million was used for school security upgrades.
Changes include new high-definition security cameras and electronic key card readers. Installing equipment has been an ongoing project since 2014.
More security upgrades will be coming in future years, Bowman said. They’ll likely be paid for using plant facilities levy money.
But the voter-supported levy — $3.3 million annually for 10 years — is set to expire this year. The district is considering bringing a renewal request to voters during the March 2018 election.
A budget advisory committee will look at whether to run a levy again and how much money to seek, school district spokeswoman Eva Craner said.
What new security measures can you expect at your child’s school? Here’s an overview of four of the changes:
A new program called Raptor will be used to do a security check when a visitor comes into each school.
Visitors will be asked for their identification card and information will be run through law enforcement databases to check for any serious crimes on their record.
That would include being a registered sex offender and other “crimes that are serious that pose a threat to our students,” Bowman said.
It wouldn’t include minor infractions like speeding tickets.
If a notification comes up, a front desk employee will be able to push a button on their computer to notify school administrators, who will respond.
The school district is implementing a uniform system for identification badges. Each employee will have a badge, including their name, a line that says Twin Falls School District and a photo.
“Everyone will be required to wear it,” Bowman said. “Everyone will be credentialed within our buildings.”
Once visitors clear the Raptor check, they’ll receive a printed name badge to wear while they’re in the school building.
If employees see someone who isn’t wearing a badge, they’re supposed to approach them, ask them what they need and then direct them to the school office.
“That’s one of our big pushes this year,” Bowman said.
High-definition security cameras
By the time school starts, every Twin Falls School District campus will have high-definition security cameras.
“The cameras will be very nice for administration and staff to keep an eye on the building,” Bowman said, for safety purposes and after hours to ensure facilities are protected.
Electronic card readers
Each of Twin Falls’ newest schools — Rock Creek Elementary School, Pillar Falls Elementary School and South Hills Middle School — has a new electronic card reader, as well as Canyon Ridge and Twin Falls high schools.
And card readers are being installed now at Oregon Trail Elementary School.
“That was the extent of the bond,” Bowman said. Over the next few years, card readers will be installed at more schools using plant facilities money.
The card readers allow school officials to remotely lock and unlock doors at school campuses.
Using a computer, officials can also see which employees are using a key card to come into the buildings and when they’re entering.
At South Hills Middle School, doors to the building will be locked after school starts each day, Bowman said. “It forces people to come through the office.”