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Horizon Elementary

A tiger mascot welcomes families at Horizon Elementary School parent-teacher night on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Jerome.

JEROME — Jerome and Twin Falls schools are looking for ways to improve their entryways to help prevent visitors from walking right into hallways or classrooms.

Jerome’s school board voted May 10 to approve an architect agreement — with fees totaling about $14,600 — to LKV Architects to create detailed design plans for security vestibules at Horizon Elementary School, Summit Elementary School and Jerome Middle School. The Twin Falls School District is also looking to create security vestibules at its older school campuses in the near future.

As a result of mass school shootings in recent years — including in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. — many schools are looking at how they can make their buildings safer.

“Just looking at what’s happening across the country with schools, we’re looking at ways at improving security in a variety of ways,” Jerome School District Superintendent Dale Layne said Friday.

In schools with a security vestibule, visitors can get inside the building, but can’t get past another set of locked doors until they check in at the front office. A secretary must push a button to release the lock.

Ideally, the projects at three Jerome schools will begin and wrap up this summer. But that depends on how quickly the architect can complete the plans, Layne said, and the availability of contractors.

In total, projects are estimated to cost $150,000-$200,000. The money will come from a 10-year plant facilities levy, which voters renewed — but agreed to provide additional money — in March. The measure is for $650,000 annually for the first five years and $700,000 annually for the next five years.

The Jerome School District has a design concept for a security vestibule at Jerome High School but isn’t ready to move forward with that project yet.

“It’s a little more difficult because of the building itself,” Layne said. “We’re working on it, but weren’t not as far along on that.”

Jefferson Elementary School already has a vestibule, which was designed a few years ago when the school office was relocated.

Currently, Jerome schools try to focus on having exterior building doors locked, except for the main entrance. Other school security measures include security cameras indoors and outdoors, and locking systems for classroom doors.

Schools are also working with students to address bullying and mental health issues, Layne said. “That kind of level of security is not as visible, but is just as important or more important.”

Creating a security vestibule will be the most challenging at Horizon Elementary, which will require essentially flipping the office 180 degrees, Layne said. “That one is going to be a little more involved.”

Horizon Elementary’s school principal wasn’t available to comment Friday on the project.

The vestibule project will be fairly straightforward at Jerome Middle School, Layne said, with adding a door and some additional walls.

Summit Elementary’s project will be the easiest, with essentially just one additional wall. “It’s small enough that there’s a possibility we could do that internally,” he said.

In Twin Falls, creating security vestibules will be paid for using a 10-year, $4.75 million annual plant facilities levy voters renewed in March. Creating the vestibules is one of the top priorities for the levy money, but a timeline for projects hasn’t been set yet.

The Twin Falls School District’s three newest campuses — South Hills Middle School (opened in 2017), and Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools (opened in 2016) — already have vestibules.

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