Cambria Heights district instates security procedures

PATTON — Cambria Heights School District has new procedures for the 2018-19 school year involving visitors and early-dismissal requests.

Visitors to any of Cambria Heights’ school buildings will have to ring a buzzer at the building’s main door, according to the school district’s website. They will then have to state their name and business before they are permitted entry into a glass-framed foyer. Once there, visitors need to present a valid, government-issued photo ID.

Superintendent Michael Strasser said the new procedures are being installed “to protect the kids” after a false-alarm incident at the district’s elementary school last December.

“It’s a shame that this is what has become of society in general, that we need to turn schools into fortresses. Unfortunately, this is the reality in the world in which we now live,” Strasser said.

He said each foyer will have a pass-through window for parents who are dropping off their child’s lunch or homework.

The person’s driver’s license number will be entered into a computerized system called School Gate Guardian.

“This will automatically check for a criminal record, such as child abuse, molestation charges and/or felonies. If the license is not red-flagged, the visitor will be admitted to the building,” Strasser wrote in an email.

The middle school foyer is 8 feet high.

“Visitors will first need to be buzzed into (the foyer), alerting the secretaries. They will be under surveillance at this point,” he said. “If someone is intent on getting into the building at any cost, it would be difficult to prevent that.”

The school district’s website states that visitors might be asked to show their ID multiple times before leaving the building. Strasser said that typically won’t happen.

“Parents won’t be asked to show their ID again, unless they were in the building for other business and then are leaving with their child,” he said.

Early dismissal requests also have updated procedures.

“Requests to be excused will be from the parents or guardians in writing, and the excuses must be brought to the office before class starts in the morning. Parents will be required to check in via the process the school has set up,” the online statement reads. “Students will be released only to individuals documented as emergency contacts. Once identified as an authorized individual, school personnel will direct you to another location where your child(ren) will be brought to you.”

Strasser said in an emergency when a pupil’s emergency contacts were unavailable, office secretaries would release pupils from the school only after they receive consent from a pupil’s parent or legal guardian over the phone.

“They would need to come to the school and provide proper identification. If it was a relative or a friend, the office staff would need to talk to the parent before releasing the child.”

Strasser said the procedure will be the same throughout all school buildings and that parents will be admitted into the main office if they are signing their excused child out of school. He said 18-year-old pupils can still sign themselves out of school but need a note from their parent or legal guardian.