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Another step toward school safety


The district installs video doorbell systems and will utilize visitor management software for the first time

This fall, the Newberg School District will fall in line with schools across the country in taking visible steps to increase security as the threat of violence has become increasingly entrenched in the landscape of public education.

Piggybacking on the implementation of a new system-wide standard response protocol for emergency situations, video doorbells have been installed at all elementary and middle schools and all schools will implement a visitor management system. by: SETH GORDON - Checking in - Newberg public schools will feature new visitor management software this year. Visitors who wish to enter the school beyond the office must scan their photo identification and receive a visitor's badge.

“We’ll be changing the culture in our schools,” Newberg Schools spokeswoman Claudia Stewart said. “We’re used to just walking in our schools and they’re just not going to be as porous as they have been in the past.”

Visitors will now have access to elementary and middle schools through the front door only, while all others will be locked unless supervised by a staff member.

Video cameras will show staff in school offices that someone is at the door and visitors will use an intercom system to request entry and possibly identify themselves, at which point they will be buzzed in and required to go directly to the office.

Because of its open campus, Newberg High School will not utilize a video doorbell system, but will, like all district schools, employ the new Raptor visitor management system. Visitors will have their photo identification – either a driver’s license, identification card, passport, work VISA or green card – scanned and compared to a national sex offender database.

Those who don’t have identification are tagged by the system, which triggers an alert to school administrators and law enforcement officials. They will not be allowed to enter the school without an escort or possibly at all.

In all other cases, visitors will received a printed badge to wear during their visit and which must be returned to the office so people can be checked out of the building.

Dundee Elementary School secretaries Dana Klingler and Shelley Thomas said the doorbell system has already given them some piece of mind they didn’t have before.

“You’re not feeling the pressure that you always have to be out here,” Klingler said. “If we walk to the bathroom or to talk to a kid, we know someone hasn’t slipped through that we don’t know about.”

District officials want to make it clear that the system does not do a background check or scan for immigration status and, perhaps more importantly, that flagging potential threats is just one function of the system. The main intent is to allow staff to track who is in the school at anyone time.

“We’ll be able to track volunteer hours, for example, much more accurately than we’ve been able to before,” Stewart said. “Say there is an emergency, we’re going to know who is in our building.”

The doorbell system will be engaged mostly during school hours, but not during arrival and dismissal times as a strong staff presence in the halls in front of buildings will allow them to unlock the front door.

The doorbell and Raptor systems are not necessarily intended to fully prevent threats themselves, but working together and with the new response protocol, should decrease risk significantly.

Just two weeks before Newberg students were to begin classes, that point and the fact that school violence is simply a reality now were hammered home by a school shooting incident in Decatur, Ga., on Aug. 20.

A gunman subverted the doorbell system installed at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy by sneaking in behind someone, but was spotted and never got past the school office. Michael Brandon Hill, 20, was talked out of entering the school further by bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff, which allowed school officials to initiate a lockdown and eventually evacuate the school. Hall later fired shots at police, but Tuff convinced him to cease fire and surrender. There were no injuries.

The bottom line for Newberg students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers and community members is they will just have to get used to the new culture of security because there is no going back to the old days of unlocked doors and virtually free access, officials said.

“I think for the most part parents are going to be patient and appreciative,” Thomas said. “There will be some parents who may not, but really and truly, we have no choice but to use it and that’s why it’s here.”