VESTABURG, Mich. (WOOD) — In Karen Gostomksi’s prekindergarten class at Vestaburg Elementary School, even the little ones are trained to secure a door.
“You guys show us what we have to do to stay safe,” Gostomski told two young students during a Thursday demonstration of the school’s new door blocking system.
The kids went right to work, one shutting the door and another placing a plate through a slot on the door. Pins at the bottom of the plate slide into two holes drilled into the floor, making it difficult to break in.
There are only about 600 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, attending Vestaburg Community Schools, but many larger districts could learn from the security innovations the district has put into place. In addition to the door blocks, there are bullet-resistant aluminum plates on exterior doors and windows.
“The idea behind these shields is, more than anything, is to prevent anyone from shooting out the windows or the locking mechanism,” Vestaburg Superintendent Brandon Hubbard explained to 24 Hour News 8. “If someone is messing or someone is trying to get through the shield, you have time then to be able to get into a lockdown situation.”
The district has also added reflective door placards that can guide emergency responders to the right place through smoke and security cameras that cover the entire campus.
“This allows us not only to monitor our kids, but in case of a lockdown or an emergency situation to be able to monitor what’s going on,” Hubbard said, pointing to one of several monitors that show the video feed, which can also be accessed by law enforcement from remote locations.
Soon the district will install a Bluetooth-based notification system that can pick up sounds, like a gunshot, and notify the entire school to lock down. The door plates will also activate the Bluetooth systems.
“We will be able to have an app on our phone so that we will be able to locate where that disturbance is, where the issue is,” Hubbard said.
Two years ago, the district brought in a consultant to upgrade security measures beyond what was already had in place. Then the community of Vestaburg went to work with a fundraiser for the door lock plates and the video system.
“In about three weeks, we had raised over $20,000. Our community, really, it was phenomenal,” Hubbard said.
Savings from switching to LED lighting over the next three years will cover another $200,000 in security upgrades.
Hubbard admits it’s impossible to cover every scenario cooked up by a person who wants to do harm, but said the hardware and, just as importantly, the awareness of everyone from administrators to the youngest student helps brings some peace of mind.
“We would love to be focusing strictly on curriculum and instructional practices and the kids, but the truth is safety’s first and foremost,” Hubbard said.