Student adjustments to new school security measures haven’t been extreme because most students have spent their entire secondary school lives dealing with security checks and scanning, said Eisenhower High School Principal Jay Lehr.
“If anything, our kids have embraced it and they appreciate it,” Lehr said of new security measures being implemented for LPS secondary campuses, including a new scanning system and security fencing. “We’ve done metal detectors for so long, it’s not a vast change when we do things now. We even did extra security at the schools this year. There was very little push back.”
Lawton secondary students have been living with security scanning for about 20 years, but those systems have changed over the years as technology has evolved. In simplest terms, scanners mean every student comes into the building through the main entrance, and both the students and whatever they are carrying are scanned before they may come into the school. This school year, those scanners were upgraded to weapons detection systems, replacing what Lehr calls the “just plain metal detectors.”
That new equipment allows school staff to process students more quickly, he said, explaining that rather than scanning students then individually checking bags, the new scanner allows students to carry their backpacks through and everything is scanned at the same time. Students are individually screened only when the monitor sounds.
“It speeds up our process in the morning,” Lehr said, adding while the school has had metal detectors for years, “we’ve heightened it.”
Delays aren’t an issue most days, he said, explaining each campus is allowed to tweak the system to meet the needs of its students. At Eisenhower, the school created an area where students can wait until the doors open in the morning and the screening process begins. Once completed, students can go to class. The only real problem occurs when buses run late, Lehr said, noting the system has to be adjusted in those cases.
“It’s more that our timeline is dictated by student arrival rather than security measures,” he said, explaining it is a process students are accustomed to, which is why the new scanner wasn’t much of an adjustment.
Some of the changes center on visitors. The school is creating a glass enclosure for visitors, a holding area for those who don’t work or go to school at Eisenhower. Lehr said the idea is better management of people in the building.
“The only people who should be in our building will be in the building,” he said.
He said that is why the glass enclosure is important, because it means a visitor can’t get into the school without entering the school office and getting an access pass. That means a vetting process, to include checking credentials.
“We want to make sure somebody doesn’t slip in that need not be here,” Lehr said, adding that access isn’t always with malicious intent — he talked to one man who simply didn’t know there was a controlled access policy.
The biggest change will be be security fencing that has long been a feature at elementary schools but is being added to secondary campuses. Fencing already is being installed at Lawton High and Central Middle School, the pilot site for a project that will create three secondary campuses in Lawton by fencing high schools and middle schools into one campus: Lawton High and Central Middle, MacArthur High and MacArthur Middle, and Eisenhower High and Eisenhower Middle. Details are still being ironed out, Lehr said.
“That’s a work in progress,” he said, adding that isn’t unusual: even the change from standard metal detectors to a weapons detection system came with tweaks.
In theory, fencing will limit access to campuses and it’s a security measure already in place in schools across the nation. But, what is a simple measure at the elementary level is more complex at the high school level, where many students drive themselves to school at various times of the day. That creates questions about how to limit access points onto campus, Lehr said, explaining that with students leaving campus by private vehicle each hour of the day, a monitoring system is necessary.
While he doesn’t know the timeline for an exact process, Lehr does know the fencing will provide additional security for students, which is why everything on campus will be behind the fence: parking lot, athletic fields and, in Eisenhower’s case, the nearby Eisenhower Elementary School. It makes sense, Lehr said, explaining the high school has staff that works at both secondary schools, middle school students attend some programs at the high school, and high school students work with middle school and elementary school students.
Lehr expects the end result to be students and staff who feel more secure.
“The adults, the people employed here, in conversations with them, they appreciate it,” he said, adding his staff was part of the process by providing feedback and ideas. “They embrace it and appreciate it.”