D181 focused on keeping students safe

Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 has taken several steps to keep staff and students safe while still welcoming community members who visit the schools.

And the work is not done, said Jeffrey Alstadt, communications director.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to continue to enhance the safety efforts at the district,” he said Tuesday.

Alstadt highlighted past, current and future initiatives for board members at their meeting Monday night. Previous facilities projects created safety vestibules at the schools and secure office areas with visitor management systems. Exterior card readers were installed and safety film was applied to first-floor windows, he reported.

This year the district began using a three-point entry system. Visitors must first be buzzed into the vestibule and then buzzed into the main office before being cleared to enter the learning environment. The district also upgraded to the Verkada Guest visitor management system to control and track who enters the schools and print visitor badges.

Other safety improvements this year included the installation of security cameras, bringing the number to 210 internal and external cameras, and new room number signs, called tents, that allow all room numbers to be seen from the end of a hallway.

This year served as a pilot year for CrisisGo, a software system that allows the district to send out alerts and communicate and coordinate with first responders. The company also provides tools to help staff understand how to react in an emergency.

One of the most visible changes this year was the introduction of safety officer visits under a pilot program. Officers from Hinsdale, Burr Ridge and Clarendon Hills have conducted more than 1,300 site visits so far this school year, Alstadt said.

“It’s not like your traditional SRO (school resource officer). They don’t handle student discipline,” he commented Tuesday. “Yes, they interact with students, but it’s more of a focus on presence. They’re walking the grounds. They’re in the school. They check to make sure doors are locked and the school is secure.”

Next year instead of one officer being in the district every school day, there will be three.

“If something was to happen, we’d have three internal people deployed to the site instantly in addition to the other first responders,” Alstadt told The Hinsdalean.

Police also work with district staff to facilitate safety training, such as the ALICE civilian active shooter response training.

Alstadt praised the work of the District 181 Safety and Crisis Committee, which is comprised of district staff and representatives from area police and fire departments. Committee members, who meet every other month during the school year, review and monitor the safety and crisis plan and discuss current events involving school security, according to the district’s website.

“The collaboration that happens here in this community I would say doesn’t happen everywhere,” Alstadt told The Hinsdalean.

At the meeting, board President Mike Martin praised Alstadt and Superintendent Hector Garcia for the improved safety protocols that have been implemented during the three years he has served on the board.

“I think it’s very unique for an elementary/middle school district to take these steps,” he said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean