The Blaine County School District is planning to spend about $1.5 million this summer to beef up security at the district's eight schools and at the district-owned Community Campus in Hailey.
Major features of the plan, which is still subject to school board approval, include remodeling the entrances to Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School to funnel people through the facility offices while school is in session, tripling the number of security cameras districtwide and installing security card-reader systems to replace older locks and keys.
Contrary to rumors that have recently circulated, the district does not plan to eliminate doors that now lead directly outside from classrooms at Hemingway, Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools and at Carey School.
"We have no intention of walling them up," said district Business Manager Mike Chatterton.
Instead, electronic lock systems will be installed on the classroom doors to give school officials and district Security Director Scott Manning notification if the door is left open for an extended period of time. Currently the doors have lock systems that allow them to be opened only from inside.
Chatterton discussed the planned upgrades at a special school board meeting Wednesday.
According to a timeline outlined by Chatterton, he will seek board approval at the regular April school board meeting Tuesday, April 10, to issue a request for proposals for a design-build contract for the upgrades. Chatterton said he expects to ask the board to approve a final contract at the May 8 regular school board meeting. If all goes according to plan, construction would start in June.
Funding for the security upgrades is from a 10-year, $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.
Improving school security has been on the minds of district officials for the past several years because of an increase in shootings and other violent acts at colleges and primary and secondary schools across the nation.
Some security measures have already been put in place during the past few years with funding from the 2009 plant facilities levy. For example, card-reader locks systems have already been installed at Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School.
Chatterton and Manning told the school board at Wednesday's meeting that card-reader systems give the district more control over who has access to school buildings. With the older lock-and-key system, numerous keys have been distributed over the years and many unauthorized people apparently still have them.
"Who knows how many keys are out there for our schools?" Chatterton said. "The card-reader system gives us the ability to block those keys out."
Also, about 60 security cameras are already in place, mainly at Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School. The security upgrade plan calls for installing another 120 cameras throughout the eight district schools and the Community Campus to provide surveillance of access points, hallways and exteriors.
Chatterton said the plan includes the Community Campus, which houses district offices, the College of Southern Idaho Blaine County campus and the Blaine County Recreation District, because it's one of the most vulnerable district facilities.
Chatterton said many students hang out at the Community Campus during lunch or after school and that the facility is "one of the buildings [where] we have the most incidents."
Manning said that within the past year, there have been fights and thefts at the Community Campus, and Assistant Superintendent John Blackman said there was a "knife incident" at the facility this school year.
At Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School, the most noticeable security changes will be remodeling the main entrances.
Chatterton said the changes are widely supported by staff at the schools.
"We didn't have pushback from any of the staff that that's not a good idea," Chatterton said. "Everybody in the school wants to know who's coming into the building."
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regular April meeting
The Blaine County School District board of trustees will hold its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 10. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be held at the district office at 118 W. Bullion St. in Hailey. A complete agenda is available at the district website at www.blaineschools.org.