SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – The Central Valley School District is building new schools to keep up with expanding enrollment and a big focus of the new schools is security.
Teachers and students at Ponderosa Elementary School off Dishman Mica Road just moved into their new classrooms in April. The new school is the result of a $121.9 million voter-approved school construction bond passed in 2015. Not only did the money pay for new buildings, district officials said a little more than a million of it went directly to security measures across the district. Principal Deyarmin showed KREM 2 the added measures to her school. They start in the foyer. Visitors have to be buzzed in by office staff.
“So you come over to this button here, push and parents stand in front of the camera,” Deyarmin explained.
Once you are inside the office, visitors are then directed to sign in before they are allowed into the building. The idea is to have single-point of entry where staff knows exactly who is entering their schools. As Deyarmin points out, the building was also designed with visibility in mind.
"And, so at the new school, our secretaries, even though we have the buzz in system, the locked door, they also have great visibility through our window to the person who is here. And so, at the old school we didn't have that visibility," she said.
In this school alone, there are 34 cameras keeping watch at all times. Staff can get a real time look all over the school with the click of a mouse. Also, in Deyarmin’s office and in the main office there are bright red buttons labeled, lock down. If a staff member pushes it, it sounds alarms followed by instructions directing staff to lock their doors.
“I love it. I love it. In a situating where if it was a real lockdown your adrenaline is going to be rushing, you're not going to be thinking as clearly as normal so to be able to just a push a button without having to think about anything it's pretty important,” Deyarmin said.
Even the locks on the classroom doors were built with security in-mind. In the past, teachers could only lock their doors from the outside potentially exposing them to a threat in the hallway. Now, the doors can be locked from the inside.
Beyond changes to the building itself, every classroom now has a backpack hanging by the door. It is filled with things like snacks, gauze and band aids. It also contains two large cards that teachers could hold up to let first responders know they are either ok or they need help.
“And then in this kind of a situation we would have a green card and a red card that teacher that could hold up in an evacuation and red would let us know ... would alert administration that we have students that are missing out of the classroom or they need help and then green would say, ‘Hey were all here, we're good, we're safe,’" she explained.
Another big part of the school security and all the upgrades is practicing what to do. Principal Deyarmin said training with students and staff is something they do regularly.
Even with all the added security measures, they did not feel intrusive. It still felt like a school, which is important for a lot of people. But, in this day and age districts like Central Valley are taking deliberate steps to make their school safer.