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District installs buzzer, ID system

Red Wing School District Supt. Karsten Anderson demonstrates the new buzzer system that, he says, will make the district more secure. Starting Tuesday, all visitors must buzz to enter district buildings. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)1 / 3
The new card reader will scan a state-issued ID before recording the visitor's name in a computer system and printing out a sticker badge. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)2 / 3
The sticker badges will include the visitor's name, the school they're visiting, the date and the time. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)3 / 3

Red Wing School District is stepping up its security measures for the coming school year. Starting on the first day of school Tuesday, people who visit the district's buildings during school hours will need to be buzzed in and then receive an ID badge from the school's office.

"We value having people come to the buildings, but at the same time, we want to make sure we have the safest, most secure buildings as possible," Supt. Karsten Anderson said. "This is one way to ensure that."

"The point is we want to know who's in the building," director of buildings and grounds Kevin Johnson echoed.

Johnson added that after the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 people — including many students — were shot and killed in December 2012, the district re-evaluated its security measures.

"We said we need to do everything we possibly can to keep the kids safe," he said. "That's our goal."

Previously, most building doors were locked during the day, but main entrances were kept open. Signs directed visitors to check in at school offices, where they would then sign in on a paper log. But Johnson said some visitors wouldn't check in. In addition, the sign-in logs weren't always accurate.

"We've had people put down Abe Lincoln and different names," he said. "Most people are honest, but there's people who play games."

Now, with the buzzer system, all building doors will be locked from the time school begins in the morning to when students are excused at the end of the day. To get into the building, visitors will need to buzz into the school office.

"All they'll be asked is, 'Who are you here to see?' and they'll be buzzed in," Johnson said.

With this system, the school secretaries will know exactly when someone is entering the building. Before they buzz anyone in, secretaries will also be able to check the security cameras to see who is actually outside. Previously, people could slip by unnoticed.

Once inside, visitors will then need to present an ID, such as a state-issued driver's license. The ID will be swiped in the district's new ID system. A sticker badge with the school's name, the date, time and the visitor's name will print out.

"It's actually quicker than hand-writing it," Johnson said. "It's printed so you can read it."

In addition, the ID system will keep a log of every visitor.

"Heaven forbid, if something were to happen, the police will have a true record of who's in the building," Johnson said.

The district will pay $25 per month for ongoing hardware and support for each ID system. Anderson added that the cost to install the buzzer system was minimal because much of the wiring was already there. In addition, because the district employs its own electrician, it didn't have to hire out to do the actual install.

"That would have been the bulk of the cost. And we did that internally," Anderson said.

Moving forward, Anderson said that the district's security measures will continue to be looked at and evaluated during the long-range planning process. In the future, buildings may be remodeled so that visitors have no choice but to go through a front office before gaining access to the rest of the building.

But, Anderson said, the buzzer system is helping to increase security for now.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.