Michigan School Districts Evaluate Security

Michigan School Districts Evaluate Security

Many Michigan districts are re-evaluating and upgrading their security measures to increase campus safety and security in light of increased incidents of gun violence in the U.S.

Many Michigan districts are re-evaluating and upgrading their security measures to increase campus safety and security in light of increased incidents of gun violence in the U.S.

Hillman Community Schools and Atlanta Community Schools Superintendent Carl Seiter told The Alpena News that both districts discuss and evaluate their security policies often. After each drill, Seiter said, information is gathered that allows both districts to identify potential problems with procedures.

“After an administrative debriefing upon the completion of the drills, district staff work on solving the problem or amending our procedures,” Seiter said.

Seiter said one essential part of student safety is ensuring that substitute teachers at any campus are informed and aware of a district’s emergency procedures in case anything happens while they’re on duty.

He said within Montmorency County, many schools collaborate with the county sheriff’s department, local fire departments, EMS staff, the Michigan State Police and the county emergency manager on common terms to use for emergency procedures, which “helps our substitutes understand procedures from one district to the next.”

According to Seiter, buzzer systems—where visitors must be buzzed in by school staff—have been installed in Hillman Community Schools for both the elementary school and junior/senior high school campuses.

The campuses also have a key fob system, giving district employees building access without requiring everyone to be given keys. The doors have been rekeyed, he said, and staff have active cards to access the building through a card-reader system on three entrance doors.

Seiter indicated that a new property tax for facilities upkeep and upgrades approved by Hillman voters Nov. 6 would help the district address and fund more safety needs, such as security cameras accessible by the Montmorency County Sheriff’s Department and secured front entrances.

“The modifications I envision would direct all visitors to building offices,” Seiter said. “This would prevent any access to the rest of the building unless they are granted access from office staff.”

As for Atlanta Community Schools, Seiter said the building has video surveillance on the interior and exterior of the building, as well as cameras on the buses. Atlanta’s building requires you to buzz in.

Hillman and Atlanta do not currently have liason officers, but Seiter said he would like to have them, as they’re very effective.

“With the ongoing cost of a position like this, the district is forced to come up with creative and collaborative ways to finance this,” he said.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent John VanWagoner wants to see his district upgrade to security that better fits their needs.

“You look at the schools within our athletic league, we are farthest behind as far as security and the types of upgrades that are really needed for a district our size,” VanWagoner said.

The district hopes that a potential Alpena bond proposal next year could help fund a secure vestibule entrance at each campus and an area where parents can wait to pick up their children. Currently, visitors can simply walk into Alpena schools without entering the office to check in first.

“We feel in these times that is not safe,” VanWagoner said. “I am not personally willing to sacrifice or look at any alternatives to the best options that we could get to maintain the absolutely best security that we can get for our students and parents.”

Almost all buildings in Alpena have buzzer systems, which were paid for with funds raised by each school’s Parent Advisory Council. The buzzer systems became a security priority after Ella White Elementary School was locked down in March because of a possible intruder on campus grounds. At the time, Ella White was the only elementary school in the district with a buzzer system.  

According to VanWagoner, none of the elementary schools in Alpena have video surveillance inside or outside of the buildings, and the security cameras at Alpena High and Thunder Bay Junior High don’t cover enough territory inside and outside of the campuses.

“Right now, we wouldn’t be able to see what a vehicle would look like or have a description or what car they got into or even if a kid got on the wrong bus, we wouldn’t know with all the technology we currently have,” he said. “We have some real work in need and necessity to be able to improve those things.”

Posen Consolidated Schools Superintendent Michelle Wesner said the district’s buzzer system, security cameras and liason officer are visible on campuses, giving parents some peace of mind about the safety and security of their children.

There is one main entrance, allowing administrators to see who is entering and exiting the school, and when visitors enter they have to buzz into the office before they’re allowed into the rest of the campus, she said. Posen’s buzzer system was funded through a federal Every Student Succeeds Act grant.

Posen has installed video surveillance in the elementary school wing, junior/senior high school wing, both gyms, parking lot and common areas, as well as buses.

“We have those systems in place for day-to-day functioning,” Wesner said.

Posen also has a liason officer, who is housed in the campus building and works with the school to ensure security, as well as assisting with drills and procedure checks during the school year.

“He works with any issues as far as law infractions,” Wesner said. “A lot of it is just communicating with the kids and getting them to feel like he’s on their side. He’s here for their safety and he’s here to support them.”

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