Hays USD 489 is completing upgrades this summer on its security systems at all district schools.
A new buzz-in system will be in place by the beginning of the school year.
When a visitor or parent comes to a school during school hours, they will have to ring a doorbell at the front entrance. This will alert staff in the office who will ask the person who they are and their business at the school. The school staff will be able to observe the front door from cameras in the office.
The person will be buzzed in and will need to check in at the office.
Although some schools in the district have already installed buzz-in systems, not all of them have.
The front doors of schools will be unlocked as normal when children are coming and letting out for the day.
“It is that press in the whole nation of trying to be as safe as you possibly can,” Superintendent John Thissen said. “You turn on the TV and see ugly things have happened even in small communities. We are just trying to be in line with the safest procedures you can do.”
Some of the district schools’ offices do not have a direct line of sight to the front doors of the buildings. One example of this is at Lincoln Elementary School.
“Unless someone is really looking at the monitor, they would have free rein of the building,” Thissen said. “At least now through the day while kids are in school, someone in the office should have accountability of everybody who walks in that building.”
Thissen said the security upgrades not only protect against a terrorist, but can protect children and staff from issues with non-custodial parents.
Thissen said the district will not be on the cutting edge, but is catching up to what other districts have been doing for years.
The estimated cost for the project will be $50,000. The USD 489 Foundation for Educational Excellence has slated a dinner and auction for Nov. 3. The proceeds from that auction will go toward reimbursing the district as much as possible for the buzz-in system. The foundation has set a goal of $50,000 in hopes covering the complete cost of the project.
The district has also received $57,700 from the state toward a $250,000 project to upgrade all of the interior locks in the district. The district will have to match the $57,000 with money from the general or capital outlay funds. The district had asked for $125,000. However, Thissen said he was thrilled to have received what it did with so many districts vying for limited money — $5 million.
The lock system will be standardized with master keys for administrators and more limited access for teachers. Hundreds of locks, including classroom door locks and some padlocks would be changed.
Some of the district’s buildings are so old that non-secure doors such as closets still have skeleton key locks. Other locks are worn out. The new key system requires keys that can’t be replicated at a standard key replacement station.
The district is also issuing new ID/key cards. The cards will be color-coded by building. Although the district eliminates key code access to cards when staff leave the district, the staff IDs have not been updated in years.
The district would also like to make the high school more secure by renovating its main entrance so all visitors would be funneled through the school’s office. That project won’t be finished this summer, but it could be finished before the end of the school year, Thissen said. This project would cost an additional $30,000 to $50,000. Ultimately, Thissen said having all schools with this type of entrance would be preferred.
Long term, the district would like to devote funds to upgrading security cameras, most of which are 15 to 20 years old. Some newer camera systems have the option of allowing police to have direct internet access to the camera feeds.
Thissen said, unfortunately, he believes all schools will be dealing with security issues and investments for many years to come.
Foundation dinner and auction
The Foundation is accepting donations for its silent auction, is seeking businesses sponsors and selling advertising for the auction catalog.
Sponsorships start at $250. Ads are $25 for a business card size ad, $50 for a half page and $100 for a full page.
Tickets will be $75 per person or $500 for table of eight and will go on sale Sept. 1. The Unrein Building, which is were the dinner will be conducted, holds a maximum of 500 people for this type of event. You may purchase raffle tickets at the time you purchase event tickets. You do not need to be present to win. The raffle prizes have yet to be announced.
Tickets can be purchased at the superintendent’s office at Rockwell Administration Center, 323 W. 12th, or by phone at 785-623-2400.
The dinner will be at the Unrein Building at the Ellis County Fairgrounds. Doors will open at 4 p.m. for a preview party. Elvis entertainer Frank Werth and The Vibrations will be the evening’s entertainment. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. Alcoholic beverages and snacks are included in the price of a ticket. The silent auction booths will begin closing at 6 p.m. and the live auction will begin at 7 p.m. USD 489 nutrition services will serve an evening snack of cinnamon rolls and juice at the conclusion of the live auction.
Volunteers are needed for the auction. People will be needed to set up the silent auction, as cashiers, bar tenders, runners, silent auction booth workers, raffle ticket sellers and for the cleanup crew.
“Probably the most important thing is what the auction proceeds will go to,” Sarah Wasinger, foundation board member, said. “We decided to do something that would impact all of the schools in the district.”
For more information on the dinner and auction, contact Wasinger at the superintendent’s office at 623-2400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.