Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Most Minnesota schools will welcome students back on Tuesday, and keeping kids safe while they’re there is a top priority.
After a gunman stormed an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people, some Minnesota schools made changes. This fall, at least five school districts in our state will vote on safety referendums.
He had only been working in a Colorado school district for seven months when Rick Kaufman would be one of the first on scene to the deadliest high school shooting in our country’s history.
“We could still hear the shots,” Kaufman said. “We could still hear the explosions inside the school.”
Kaufman has taken what he learned from Columbine to help improve the safety of Bloomington’s schools. He serves as the executive director of community relations and emergency management for the school district.
He helped Olson Middle School make changes two years ago.
“When the school days starts the primary doors will be open the secondary set of doors will be locked funneling visitors into the office,” he said.
The office acts as the first barrier to block visitors from entering the main part of the building.
“It’s important to create barriers so you buy time for law enforcement to respond,” Kaufman said.
Beyond physical barriers, technology can also make it much more difficult for intruders to do any damage.
Eden Prairie schools are also stepping up security this fall by screening visitors in a different way. Visitors will come and have their IDs scanned. A device will take your first and last name, your date of birth, license number and a photo.
The Eden Prairie School District spent $20,000 on what’s called the Raptor Visitor Management system. The system is used in 8,000 schools around the country. It’s also tied to the national sex offender registry with the goal of providing students and parents more peace of mind.
“They’re really thinking about the safety and security of their kids as we are,” said
Bob Noyed, a district spokesperson.
For years, schools have drilled for tornadoes and fires. Now, in its safety guide, the Department of Homeland Security requires schools to rehearse an active shooter scenario at least five times a year.
The Minnesota Safety School Center helps districts come up with a basic plan. It also asks police departments to get inside to know how each school is designed.
“Every school is different based on the design of it, the age of the students, the staff, how big, how small, where it’ located in the city,” said Nancy Lageson, the director of Minnesota School Safety Center.
In November, Bloomington voters will decide if they’ll spend $6 million a year for technology and safety upgrades, which include: renovating all main entrances, and adding new locks and security cameras. Eden Prairie voters will also decide on a safety referendum.
Kaufman believes it’s a decision the district can’t afford not to make, after what he witnessed years ago.
“If I save one kid then I think I’ve accomplished something,” Kaufman said.
The Minnesota Safety School Center wants parents to know where to pick up their kids in case of an emergency. It’s something parents usually find out at the beginning of the school year.
The center also offers a detailed checklist to schools to help them become safer.