by Sofia Colignon | news editor
New safety measures have been added to the campus as a response to the school shootings that have taken place this past year in order to protect students and members of the faculty. Students could soon be randomly searched and subjected to screening with a metal detector wand, which will alert the staff if a student is carrying any sort of object that attracts the metal.
The wanding has not started yet, but there will be a decision made over when it will during the principal’s meeting next week.
“We’ve been told at this point that we would do this [with] the drug dog that comes out, and [does] those random searches in classrooms, where you all leave the classroom, the dog goes in, sniffs around, and it comes out. Well, on top of that now, when the dog comes in, you go out, you line up, you put your hands in your pockets, grab everything that’s on your pocket, hold them out and hold then up, and we come by and we wand and [you would] hear a buzzer if there’s something that you have on you that attracts the metal,” principal John Mehlbrech said.
The district also added a buzzer system to the campus, in which any parents or visitors that want to come in after school already started can be monitored to ensure the students’ and staff members’ safety.
“By 9 o’ clock, the doors are locked, and you can’t get in. To get in, you gotta use the buzzer system. [With] the buzzer system, you buzz, and we have four monitors in our administrative office. The main one is up in the reception desk, because that’s where you gotta check in. So, when you push the button, it rings, and then, the receptionist can see you [through the] camera. And then, she can push the button to talk and say ‘How can I help you?’. And you gotta respond and say ‘I’m here to pick up Jane Smith’ or ‘I’m here to drop off lunch’ or whatever [so] she can buzz you in, and then you’ll hear a click and then you can open the door,” Mehlbrech said.
The buzzer system’s purpose is for staff members to be more alert of the people coming in and out of the building, and being able to look at them through the camera before deciding whether they let them in or not.
“It’s primarily so that when I’m looking at you, I don’t see you carrying any kind of weapon, or anything suspicious. If there was, or if a parent was having some trouble with it, [the clerk at the Welcome Center] can push a panic button, which will flash in my office, [and] also go directly to the NEISD police to say ‘We have a problem’. And then they [would] react, and take security measures. So, the buzzer system is fully activated, and it works, and if parents come in, they have to buzz. If students are out there, and they wanna come in, they have to buzz, [because] those doors remain locked all during the day,” Mehlbrech said.
Approximately 70 to 80 people are coming in and out of the building through the buzzer system in a day.
“[It’s] mostly parents dropping off, it’s also new parents enrolling their students, it’s also students coming in from a doctor’s appointment, students coming in late. It’s also from the tech program that they got of campus and pals and different activities and they also coming in through this door, so I allow them in,” Welcome Center clerk Pam Garrett said.
Almost every door is to be locked during the entire school day.
“If you were to go to these doors [G and F wing that lead to bus stop] right now, they’re all locked. You can’t come in that way. If you go through the E, F doors, those are all locked. You can’t get in from the outside. The buzzer is just for the main [doors] to get in, so it forces all of the traffic to come up to this front, so then that’s how they would get in during the day,” Mehlbrech said.
However, one or two doors must remain open, due to the constant moving of students in the building.
“I think, in a high school, you’ve got to understand we’re mobile, that we are always moving, and, with 3000 kids, you’re gonna have kids coming and going all day, from the time you’re here until the time you leave, whether it be going to different classes, whether they’re calling you to the office, or they have to go to the nurse. Interiorly, we still gotta keep things accessible but monitored, so mostly every door is locked, but we also understand that, during the day, [we] gotta keep one or two open, so that people can get back and forth, like to the athletic building, and back to the main building are one of the two major ones… So even though they may or may not be locked, they’re monitored, and we have cameras on,” Mehlbrech said.
The district is also currently looking at two new safety measures that include monitoring social media and fencing some areas of the school.
“The district hired a company, and we’re working with [it] to monitor social media. If they see something on social media, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is, if they see something about threatening, if they see something about shooting up a school, or if they see something about causing harm on campus or at an event, they immediately notify our police department, and then they go and investigate,” Mehlbrech said. “The other thing we’re looking at is fencing, so that we are to funnel people into a certain entry point, [and] know where they’re gonna come in from, so they’re not just scattered all over and coming in from all over the place. [We were thinking about] putting a fence [by the E and F wing], [where students] would have to go through the courtyard, or through where those bollards are as you enter into the courtyard, so everybody would come in that way. And then we’d have a camera on it, so we’d be able to see you exactly coming through, if there’s any suspicious actions, we’re able to target [them] a little bit quicker. So the idea is to kind of funnel them into a particular entry point, and to keep anybody from the outside coming in. It’s kind of just funneling people into a particular point for security.”
In the end, all of these measures are being taken in order to keep students and members of faculty safe.
“A lot of these measures that are being put into place [are] a reaction to what’s going on in society, and life at high school has changed. Like it or not, it’s a different world, it’s a different place, and things [and] if we do not adjust to them, then it’s our fault. We have to do something to show that we are trying our best to protect you all, and you all should not be coming to school worried about shootings. You shouldn’t have to come to school worrying about your safety. You’ve got other things to worry about, you don’t need to be worrying about that piece,” Mehlbrech said.