The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Clinton

August 8, 2013

Safety first: New year brings changes to Clinton school buildings

CLINTON — Keeping students safe tops the list of priorities for Clinton School District officials. This school year, they have made a number of changes to protect students from possible harm before, during and after school.

Clinton students will return to class Aug. 15 when they will find some alterations to their schools. Among the most notable, school officials say, will be the entrance to Clinton High School.

Rather than being able to enter through the doors on the east side of the school into the Commons, anyone entering CHS during the school day will need to go through the main entrance on Eighth Avenue South.  

“Parents, teachers and visitors have all wondered why the Commons door was the main entrance because it gave anybody free access to the entire building,” School Resource Officer Pat Cullen said.  

The commons entrance will be locked during the school day starting this school year. Officials have been working towards changing the entrance since Homeland Security suggested it several years ago.  

“We’ve been working on this for quite some time.” Cullen said. “It became evident to us last year that the change needed to be made.”  

The set of doors on the outside wall of the school facing Eighth Avenue South will be unlocked. Once inside the vestibule, visitors will push a buzzer and inform front office staff who they are. A front office staff member, who can see who is at the doors using the video cameras stationed at the entrance, will then unlock a door and direct the visitor to check in at the front office. The stairwell inside the vestibule is locked, giving visitors only one entrance to the school.

Not only will visitors have one set of doors to access CHS, but that entrance is a much shorter stroll through the hallway to the front office and that of the school resource officer.

“It’s going to be a more secure school overall,” Cullen said. “We know who’s coming in and out. It’s a short distance to the office and they don’t have access to the entire school.”  

With the entrance change, 10-minute parking along Eighth Avenue South will be permitted. Any other visitor parking will still be in the east parking lot.

The entrance alterations won’t cease after this school year. Next year the district plans to create a doorway, entirely eliminating visitors entering the hallway.  

“We’re constantly looking at improving school safety,” Superintendent Deb Olson said.

The safety changes don’t apply solely to CHS students. Kindergarten through 12th-grade students will be trained on the ALICE system about how to react in case an intruder makes it into the school or some other emergency occurs.  

The system teaches students to be proactive, speak in plain language about the emergency and, most importantly, escape safely.

“Basically it’s about time. We want to keep our kids and a staff safe. We want them all safe,” Cullen said. “Hopefully we will never, ever have to use it. But if the occasion arises that it does happen, we’re ready for it.”

Outside the classroom, school and city officials are working to make the streets safer for students. This effort includes crosswalks along South Eighth Street, no U-turn signs at Whittier Elementary, a turn lane into Eagle Heights and a fully signalized intersection south of Bluff Elementary.  

Back-to-school time also means drivers need to be more vigilant, officials said.  

Clinton police will have extra traffic enforcement in school zones to make sure kids are wearing seat belts, drivers aren’t speeding and kids aren’t being dropped off in the middle of the street, among other things.

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