ROCHESTER In the wake of tragedy across the country, area schools are stepping up security. Rochester Community Schools invested $8 million for the 2014-15 school year to increase safety at all four buildings.
Through bond work with the school board, the funds allowed the school to upgrade all entry vestibules, including the addition of an extra set of locked doors, cameras and key fobs.
The district also received a Homeland Security grant in 2013-14, which provided a gate guardian to run background checks. In 2014-15, the school received the grant again to secure a School Resource Officer (SRO) who will rotate between the four buildings.
"As school administrators and school employees, our number one priority is student safety," said Oscar Haughs, the Assistant Principal at the middle school. "You don't want to say, 'it's not going to happen to us,' because once you say that tragedy can strike."
Rochester isn't the only district increasing security. South Bend Community Schools are adding safety measures at the Intermediate and Primary levels, including remote access and key fobs at all doorways.
In addition to physical safety measures, the district also used summer break to step up communication and education between local police and school officials. SROs, mental health workers, law enforcement and the administration attended multiple seminars to get a better understanding of the law.
"Times have changed," said Lt. Eric Crittendon, the Safety Security Director for SBCSC.
"We need to respond differently, we have different things that come up in schools. Five, ten years ago we weren't as worried about people coming in and shooting in school buildings. Now, we have to address those and make sure our people who work inside these schools receive some type of training to help respond to those incidents," said Lt. Crittendon.
Back in Rochester, aside from security, the district is also upgrading the technology department. Students K-12 will work with iPads and laptops at school. Middle and high school students will be able to take iPads home through a one-to-one program.
"In the 21st century, you want your students to be competitive around the world, not just in Indiana and not just in Rochester, but globally," said Haughs.