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Dist. 201 plans to launch more safety measures

Sandy Hook tragedy spurs Minooka schools into action

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 7:00 a.m. CDT

The tragic shooting of school children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut has Minooka Grade School District rethinking some of its own safety measures.

While the district has a very effective safety plan to keep children safe at all seven schools, some things might be changed as a result of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Minooka Superintendent Al Gegenheimer said.

All schools have two locked doors, with a vestibule in between. Visitors have to identify themselves and their reason for the visit through an intercom from outside the school. Once they are buzzed in to the vestibule they are supposed to show identification before gaining entry.

But sometimes staff members are more relaxed about the process when they personally know people and buzz them into both doors, Gegenheimer said. It’s because staff are trying to make the school a welcoming place to parents and the community.

“In the past, we have tried to expedite them coming in,” Gegenheimer said.

The safety of the children and staff has to come first, so that procedure will be strictly enforced. Secretaries will make a visual confirmation once the visitor is in the vestibule and then check to be sure he or she is listed in the student’s file, if it is a parent.

The district will also re-investigate biometric thumbprint scanning systems for the vestibule, a program they began looking at a year ago.

If the system were used, all parents/guardians would provide a digital thumbprint during school registration. Along with a photo ID, the fingerprint would be in the district’s computer system. Once inside the vestibule, the parent would scan their thumb and staff would pull up the person’s photo at the same time.

The biometric scanner is not as accurate as police fingerprint system, Dist. 201 Network Manager Aaron Souza said. It checks about 30 to 36 points on the fingerprint.

While the thumbprint scanner wouldn’t have prevented the Connecticut tragedy, it would add another layer of security, Gegenheimer said.

The district has also had different security companies making presentations as they look at other options, Souza said.

School principals have met with local police departments since the tragedy, and Gegenheimer has spoken with the chiefs of police from Minooka, Joliet and Shorewood.

Police are making their normal rounds at the schools and will step up their presence and security measures, Gegenheimer said.

The district’s security plan is checked regularly by local police departments and adjustments are made as suggested.

“This tragedy raises several issues that have not been encountered in the past,” Gegenheimer said.

“Things could be happening as a result, some additional things law enforcement and emergency workers are recommending for the future.”

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