Parents and other visitors to schools in the Bethel School District will find enhanced security systems in place on almost all 27 campuses when schools open Sept. 4.
Schools in the Spanaway-based district will be equipped with a camera trained on the building’s main entrance. To enter, visitors will have to press a buzzer mounted near the locked main door. Someone inside the school will be able to see them on camera, speak with them and identify them, then press a button to open the door.
“We have installed some new equipment that we hope is going to make it a safer environment,” said Krista Carlson, spokeswoman for Pierce County’s third-largest school district.
She noted that the change will require new protocols for volunteers and visitors who arrive during the school day.
“You will no longer be able to just walk into the building,” Carlson said. Only the main door will be available for visitor access, and it will be locked until someone inside grants someone outside entrance.
School staff members also will be required to wear employee identification badges, Carlson said.
“This is a new procedure,” she said. “Everyone will be learning as we go.”
One exception to the main entrance security system will be at Challenger High School, the district’s alternative school. It is housed in a series of small portable buildings, so there isn’t one readily recognized main entrance.
Challenger, like other schools throughout the district, is equipped with video cameras designed to guard against vandalism.
The district estimates that equipping the remaining 26 school campuses with the entryway security systems will cost about $138,000.
The new technology is similar to the type of entry systems used on residential gated communities and in some commercial office buildings.
Schools across the country have been reviewing security measures since the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn. And on Tuesday, a man with an AK-47 rifle barricaded himself inside a Georgia elementary school and fired several shots at police before being arrested. No one was injured.
USA Today reported that the police chief of DeKalb County, Ga., where Tuesday’s incident took place, said the school had a system that required visitors to be buzzed in. The newspaper quoted the chief as saying that the gunman gained entry by slipping in behind an authorized visitor.
“Nothing is 100 percent foolproof,” Carlson said. But she said Bethel is attempting to provide the safest environment possible, and that the new systems are an attempt to provide another layer of safety.