Secure building out of reach

Effectiveness debated as district attempts to address building safety with new addition


Cooper Avery

Exiting through the front doors, seniors Isaiah Young and Jose Tryon pass through one of the 22 open entrances that the school has during the day. The front entrance will be remodeled to be more secure next year.

By Zia Kelly

Lawrence High School will have one secure entrance next year.

But even as the school district invests in securing the front doors, it will still struggle with the 21 other entrances that remain unlocked throughout the school day.

This summer, the district is following through with a promise to secure the entrances at each school building as part of the $92.5 million bond issue approved by voters in 2013. The LHS entrance has a projected cost of $180,000, according to assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden.

In the fall, the doors behind the Lion statue will feed directly into the main office where someone will greet students and visitors who enter the building. The concept of a safe entrance is to funnel all people through a single entrance, so that they are supervised by staff. Ideally, this ensures all people who enter the building are authorized to be there.

But as LHS stands, a single entrance is impossible. Students and teachers need to go between classes in different parts of campus — not all of which can be accessed from the main entrance.

“From a police standpoint, it would help us if we had locked doors around this building,” school resource officer Mike Cobb said. “If that was an option for the school, that would really help us.”

Making all classes accessible from the main entrance would be tricky. There are three different building on the campus. And several classrooms in the main building, including the woodshop, engineering and journalism classrooms, can only be accessed from outside entrances. Fixing the problem would likely require another bond issue.

This summer’s work leaves many parents concerned.

“We have 25 classrooms that are not accessible from the main entrance,” Site Council member Norine Spears said. “That tells me that we don’t have a good assessment of the challenges that we have today, and that is what we need.”

Cobb said he supports this summer’s renovations.

“I think any safety upgrades in this building would be awesome,” he said. “I mean it won’t alleviate all safety concerns, but it would certainly hamper people that are trying to do bad things.”

Free State is a step ahead in the safe entrance process, as work there began this year, according to Free State assistant principal Mike Hill. For their facility, changes will bring the traffic flow to a single entrance and exit for the building beginning next school year.

“Kids late to school will be forced to check in through the attendance office as it is the only entry into the building,” Hill said.

The Free State building will be more secure since it is a closed campus, and some have noted that the disparity in security is an issue of safety and equity.

“If one school is more secure than the other one, we need more resource officers,” Spears said. “We need to be able to look at all of our entrances.”

Cobb believes that the school’s safety concerns will be best met with the cooperation of people in the building.

“Students, teachers, parents and the administration [need to be involved in] finding some type of way they can all be happy with safety upgrades,” he said.

One safety change the school can make happen next year is closing off the drive between the two gyms, where students must walk to get to class. That change came out of a 2012 assessment school resource officers did to see how the school met Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design standards.

Cobb said closing-off of the drive will be the first strides toward the CPTED goals. However, this summer’s renovation cannot address the biggest issue that the CPTED assessment recognized: the insecurities that come with having an open campus.

But Lawrence High may soon get attention to address those problems.

“In the short-term, we need to address safety concerns around the main entrance and more space in the cafeteria to accommodate growth in enrollment,” said Shannon Kimball, school board president. “In the long term, I believe we need to engage in a master planning process for the Lawrence High campus, with an eye toward a larger renovation of the facility.”