Beginning this fall, Spring Lake High School visitors must enter a locked vestibule before gaining entry to the building during school hours.
The grades 9-12 building will receive a new secure lock system and camera. The district will also hire a staff member to help visitors and students sign in during school hours.
The changes are estimated to cost about $760,000, which will be paid with bond funds. The staff member’s salary will be paid out of the district’s general fund.
Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said the changes will enhance safety, and providing a safe environment for students is a top priority.
“This is the same function performed by building administrative assistants at the other buildings, but due to the front hallway separating the entry and high school office, this position needs to work from a station just inside the entry doors,” Furton said.
The district’s bond committee recommended this approach instead of a 2,300-square-foot addition that would have cost about $1 million. The addition would have involved moving offices and the welcome center, and hiring a staff member.
Spring Lake school board President Jeff Lauinger said the addition is a “steep cost,” considering the building already has a vestibule and an employee would be added in either scenario.
By selecting the less-costly option, the remaining bond funds can be used by the district over time and for items that fit into the bond language, such as buses and roof repairs.
Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist said they haven’t had any security-related issues in the past, but they felt it should be a focus and consistent to what’s in place at other district buildings.
At the district’s elementary, intermediate and middle school buildings, visitors enter a locked vestibule and are allowed into the building by a staff member.
Gilchrist said “safety should always be a priority.”
“Our current security fell short of providing the level of security we wanted,” he said. “Making sure our students and staff are in a safe environment will then provide peace of mind for parents and the community.”
Parent Wendy Glasgow welcomes the changes at the high school. During a previous school board meeting, she expressed her concerns for student and staff safety, and sending a consistent message throughout all district buildings. Glasgow said if the buzz-in system is needed at the other buildings, it should be included at the high school level.
Glasgow said she’s thankful the school board and administration listened to parents’ concerns and made the change.
“Hopefully, we will never need the added security,” she said. “But in the event of an active shooter, it might just slow him or her down enough to save lives.”
Furton noted the high school opened a few years prior to the tragedy at Columbine (Colorado) High School in 1999. Since then, schools have included secure vestibules for directing visitors through offices “as a measure to both deter and delay any potential threat,” he said.
“This change will serve that same purpose without the cost of a significant addition or renovation project,” Furton noted. “We continue to be thankful that the community so strongly supported stronger security measures as part of the 2014 bond work at each of the other four buildings.”