District 303 proposes $1M in security upgrades to school entrances

St. Charles Unit District 303 is aiming to make its schools safer next academic year with plans to add security measures at building entrances.

The estimated $1 million proposal would require visitors to check in with office staff and be buzzed in twice - once at the exterior doors and again at interior vestibule doors - before gaining access into any school, spokeswoman Carol Smith said. A 3M bullet-resistant film also will be installed on all glass vestibule doors and windows.

The proposed upgrades, which were introduced to board members last week, would look different at each school depending on its layout, Smith said.

In some buildings, such as St. Charles East High School, it would mean constructing a new vestibule wall and installing a window to the office where visitors can show their IDs and sign in, or drop off students' belongings. At St. Charles North High and Wredling Middle schools, check-in windows will be added inside the existing vestibules, she said.

Three elementary schools already require visitors to enter the building through the office. Upgrades to Thompson Middle School's entrance are being completed as part of the building's ongoing renovation.

"It seems very appropriate," board President Kathy Hewell said. "Board members were happy to see the administration continuing to make this a priority for our students and our staff."

If approved by the school board, the changes would be implemented over the summer, Smith said. The district plans to fund the upgrades using available land-cash revenues from developers. Project bids are expected to be reviewed at the committee level no later than May and considered by the full board in June.

Additionally, the district has created a safety task force to evaluate and make recommendations regarding its security procedures. The 10-member advisory committee, which includes staff members, parents, and local police and fire officials, was formed in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, Smith said.

"There has always been a group of district personnel and law enforcement representatives that work on safety and security," she said. "Moving forward, we feel that it is important to also have parent representation on the task force to assist us in our efforts."

Plans for the proposed building upgrades were in the works prior to the shooting, Smith said. Administrators and staff also have participated in on-site safety training from the Illinois School and Campus Safety Resource Center.

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