Jacksonville schools implement new security procedure
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Sep 01, 2012 | 4223 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville’s school system is looking for new ways to keep its students safe.

With a relatively open campus environment at Kitty Stone Elementary School, administrators are implementing a new visitor-management system and working to install security cameras on campus, said Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell.

The district had previously closed off a number of gates on campus to limit the access from all sides.

The new visitor system — installed at Kitty Stone at the end of last year and now also being used at the high school — enters information from a visitor’s driver’s license into a database, then prints a visitor badge with his license photo.

The cost of the system is about $5,000 to set up each school and about $500 per year to keep up a subscription to the cloud-based software.

Campbell said that once a visitor’s license has been scanned, the information will be stored locally and checked against the public sex offender registry. Once entered into the system, that data can be called up and a badge printed for the remainder of the year.

The open structure of Kitty Stone’s campus, with separate pods and other buildings and classroom doors that open to the outside, is part of what administration is trying to overcome.

“All those separate buildings give you some unique challenges that you wouldn’t have on a more traditional, one way in, one way out,” said Campbell.

New signs installed around campus by Kitty Stone Principal Christy Hamilton also are helping to make the campus easier for visitors to negotiate.

“Before we had the signs,” Hamilton said, “they would wander into the purple pod or into the lunchroom, but the signs have made it to where they have a better idea of where the office is.”

With the signs funneling individuals to the office, it makes the new visitor management system that much more effective.

“It helps us maintain and have a better idea of who’s on campus and coming through the office,” she said.

Privacy advocates have spoken out against systems that collect and store personal data. Lillie Conroy, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said such systems, primarily those that are cloud-based (meaning they rely on information stored on the Internet), could pose a risk for people whose personal information becomes stored in a third-party database. It is critically important, she said, that agencies operating such systems know where their data is being stored and how it could be used.

But Campbell said the information the schools collect is stored locally and won’t go into a larger database. The information is stored only for the school year, and the next year, visitors must once again present an ID to gain access as a visitor.

The district, he said, also hasn’t had a problem with sex offenders or unwanted visitors on campus.

“Our primary reason is for visitor management,” he said. “Just so we know who’s on campus and where they’re supposed to be.”

Campbell noted an incident last fall when Kitty Stone was put under a tornado warning in the midst of its Thanksgiving meal. There were about 100 visitors on campus who had to be rounded up and led to the district offices to wait out the warning.

“If there’s any emergency on campus, we know who to account for,” said Campbell. “We like to know who they are and where they might be.”

District officials are also currently working to get 16 new security cameras installed on the campus of Kitty Stone.

Hamilton said the cameras will be strategically placed so that that the entrances to all the pods will be visible from a central control panel in the main office.

Already, the district has received a $5,000 grant with the help of County Commissioner Rudy Abbott to help pay for the equipment and is still searching out other funding sources. Campbell said he is not yet sure how much the measure will cost.

Star staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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