Keeping kids safe: Elkhart Community Schools improve security

Elkhart Community Schools IN - School Safety Technology

This article originally appeared on WBDU Channel 16 and was written by Christine Karsten. To view the original article, click here.


Elkhart, Ind.– Times have changed. Schools are constantly adding and changing security measures after tragic events like the Columbine High School Massacre and more recently, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. So, what exactly are local schools doing to keep our kids safe?

Thanks to a safety, security and capital improvements projects referendum, which passed in 2014, Elkhart Community Schools have been making a lot of changes when it comes to security, $10 Million worth to be exact.

After the referendum passed, school officials got to work. Offices that sat in the middle of schools were moved to the front for safety reasons. Anyone who wants to enter the schools will have to press the buzzer and head straight to the office. All other doors are locked.

Once you are inside, you have to show your ID. That ID will then be run through a system called Raptor.

“One of the things it does for us in safety and security is it runs them all through the sexual offender registry,” says Elkhart Community School Director of Safety, Security and Risk Management Jamie Snyder. “So, anybody who comes in the school, it runs it through that database. As long as they are not a match to anybody in that database then it will allow the ID to print. If it is a match of somebody in that database, a warning comes up and we have to go through steps to make sure that that person does not enter our building.”

Parents, this process is complete within minutes. Another benefit from a security standpoint, you are now wearing a badge with your name and picture on it. This allows teachers and staff to put a face to a name. Every Elkhart community school has this.

Those working in the front office are also constantly monitoring a live security feed. Elkhart community schools added over 700 cameras since 2014. Those cameras monitor prime interior and exterior locations in the school and more.

Another big security change has to do with the locks.

“What makes these locks better is that we now have the ability to lock them from the inside of the rooms where before we could only lock them from the outside,” explains Elkhart Community Schools Director of Building Services Tony Gianesi. “So, in a lockdown situation, a staff member would have to step out into the hallway to lock the door and could expose themselves to something that is going on in the corridor.”

Now, that doesn’t happen.

Speaking of classrooms, those have changed too. Before, some rooms at Woodland Elementary only had three walls.

“The 50s, 60s, 70s, was when the open classroom concepts were the “in” thing. Everybody thought that was the greatest thing. You would have the collaborations between teachers and students. But, as times have changed and educational methods have changed, security concerns have changed and the open concept has gone away. It is not what we prefer,” explains Gianesi.

All classrooms in the district are now consistent.

“We also did some security gate improvements. We added some gates to be able to close off areas. We did some window treatments and finished up some lock sets,” adds Gianesi.

For all this to work, everyone needs to be on the same page.

“One thing we did is we formed a committee from schools to law enforcement to the fire department to the sheriff’s department and brought everyone together. Then, we came up with consistent guidelines we are going to use from school to school,” says Snyder.

That means, every school grades K through 12 will be using the same terminology. So, no matter the situation everyone is on the same page. Elkhart Community Schools also dedicated one employee to be responsible for any code or badge requests. She helps maintain the camera system too.

Schools will be sending information home to parents so they know what drills the school is practicing with students, what they are learning and more information about what to do when drills are in progress.

You can find all of our Back to School Headquarters stories and Apps of the Day at wndu.com/backtoschoolhq.