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Schools vigilent about safety

Dec 14, 2012

Local school officials think a lot about safety -- an unfortunate necessity in this day and age.

Students practice for emergencies -- natural disaster such as earthquakes; fires; and scary situations that require schools to be locked down. Video cameras record goings-on in campus. Visitors must enter through a controlled entrance, where their presence is known to adult staff. Both one-time visitors and regular volunteers must sign and out and wear visitor badges, just as staff members wear identification tags at all time. Typically, a staff member escorts visitors to their destination on campus.

It's very different than when I started covering education in 1985. Not that educators weren't concerned about safety then; rather, the idea of a threat such as a gunman on campus was unthinkable.

Today, schools are built -- and many local schools have been reconfigured -- so that office staff can easily see who's coming and going. Back then, every school had more than one door that was open to the public, so there was no need to pass the office if you were headed to a classroom on the other side of the building.

Nowadays, teachers have to unlock a door so students can come in from recess. Then, most doors were unlocked much of the time.

Then, McMinnville High School was a smaller building, with the gym separate from the classroom wings. Students and anyone else could enter from 17th Street or Evans, in addition to using the entrance by the office on 15th Street.

Later, after the building was expanded and the gym was connected to a new commons area, there still were more than a dozen ways to get into the building. When the school board and administration decreed that all would be locked, there was grumbling.

I still grumble, sometimes, when I go to a school to do a story and have to hike from the office to the North 40. But it's a small price to pay, if it helps keep kids safe -- thats the most important thing. 

-- Starla Pointer
Education reporter/
Stopping By columnist

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