By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mac schools beef up security

All McMinnville schools now feature a security system that gives staff members access to a panic button to summon immediate help and allows administrators and law enforcement officers to see and hear what’s happening in real time during an emergency.

District schools already featured motion-activated video cameras serving to record comings and goings. Over the past few months, the district has installed panic buttons that connect directly to the district office, along with additional cameras, at a cost of $82,000.

The panic button network will soon to tied directly into the police department as well, Superintendent Maryalice Russell told the school board during a Wednesday night work session.

The increased security is part of the district’s efforts to keep students and staff safe and, when necessary, to summon help quickly, the superintendent said. “It’s just for extreme emergency situations,” she said.

District Technology Supervisor Gary McCullough said, “We want the fastest response possible. The faster, the more lives saved.”

If an emergency happens, a school office worker can alert the district office by pressing the panic button. Administrators can then use a computer to see what’s going on, using several cameras. They can view the scene close up or capture a high-quality photo of the people involved.

Using the computer hookup, school and police officials could set up a command post in the district office while the incident plays out, using it to guide the response.

The district started adding cameras and establishing an emergency call system last spring. It tried one system, but decided it didn’t offer enough and switched to another.

In addition, Russell said, the district plans next month to begin soliciting applications for the newly created position of district security officer. She said the officer would conduct prevention activities and oversee staff training.

Staff members already have been trained in emergency response plans, and staff and students have practiced lockdown drills. All classroom and exterior doors are now locked at all schools, and visitors must ring a doorbell in order to be admitted by office staff.

Local schools plan to conduct a joint theoretical emergency drill with local police in late February.

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