In an effort to improve security, the Kirkwood School District is exploring getting a system that would require everyone, parents, grandparents and all other visitors, to present a driver’s license before being allowed to enter any of its schools or buildings.
Every visitor’s license would be scanned upon arrival to provide the district with a quick background check on the person. The 15-20 second scan checks the person’s identity against the National Sex Offender Public Registry, and can alert the district to any potential red flags that might exist on the person’s record.
The visitor management system can also help district officials identify and restrict visitors who shouldn’t be allowed on campus, such as a parent who doesn’t have custody of their child or a disgruntled former employee. It can also send text messages and email alerts to teachers and administrators about flagged visitors.
“This is a quick and easy way to keep track of visitors and the people who are in your buildings,” Zachary Chew of Elliott Data Systems Inc. told parents and teachers at a recent safety and security forum where the system was demonstrated. “It mitigates risk.”
The visitor management system, which is already being used in some St. Louis area school districts, not only verifies the person’s identity, but also issues visitors an identification sticker. For those without a driver’s license, a state-issued identification card or military ID may be used. The Webster Groves School District has a similar system in place.
The secretaries at Robinson and Keysor elementary schools, who are the first line of defense in their buildings, are in favor of the new system because it can be difficult to keep track of everyone coming and going in their schools.
“You never want to think anything (bad) will happen, but it’s always in the back of your mind,” Keysor secretary Kelly Eschenroeder said. “This is a great back up for us. It would help take the pressure off of us a little in that we would have a better safety check.”
Robinson secretary Lynn Frierdich echoed that sentiment, adding that the system could also serve as a deterrent to visitors who shouldn’t be on campus.
“If they know we’re going to be scanning their driver’s license, then hopefully that will keep them from coming,” she said.
Mary Fitzgerald, who serves on the district’s parent advisory council and building committee for North Kirkwood Middle School where her son attends, is all for the visitor management system. Prior to moving to Kirkwood in 2016, Fitzgerald’s two sons attended a district in Illinois that began using one.
“When we moved here I was shocked at how easy it was for parents or whoever to just come and go and walk their kids in and out (of school) as they pleased,” she added. “Parents will inevitably complain at first, but ultimately we know it’s for our kids’ safety.”
The district will continue to explore the option and discuss it with staff and community members.
The district is also considering making improvements to the front entrances at Keysor and Robinson elementary schools. Those entrances were renovated in 2012, but visitors can still walk into the schools without having to stop in the office.
“Right now, there’s nothing that forces them to go into the main offices,” Mike Romay, chief financial officer, said. “The renovation would make visitors have to go through the main office.”
The work, which would be paid for through the district’s dedicated maintenance fund, would be done this summer.