The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 22, 2013

Joplin district mulling new safety feature for schools

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin School District plans to proceed with installing duress buttons inside schools, administrators Tuesday night told the Board of Education.

The idea for a centrally located panic button inside a school came out of a brainstorming session last week with 62 parents, teachers, principals, law enforcement personnel and administrators, said Jason Cravens, the district’s director of instructional services. The purpose of the session was to review the district’s safety policies and procedures, and to brainstorm on ways to improve security in schools.

Cravens said dozens of ideas emerged during the meeting, such as increased safety training for staff members and substitute teachers, additional security cameras in schools, and bulletproof glass for windows. The idea of a duress button installed near a secretary’s desk that could be pushed in case of an emergency to notify police is one idea that has stuck with administrators, he said.

“Duress buttons make a lot of sense,” he said. “That’s something that came out of the meeting that sounds like a good idea.”

The proposal is still in a preliminary phase, and no bids have been solicited. But the project is something “that we’d like to go forward with,” Cravens said.

Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer said administrators are still discussing the proposal’s logistics, such as where the buttons would be installed and to what extent the warning would be sounded.

Cravens told the board that another such safety meeting is not currently scheduled, although administrators plan to meet with the builders and architects of the schools under construction to discuss their safety features.

In other business Tuesday night, the board approved a bid of $45,104 from Midwest Digital Systems, of Kansas City, for a surveillance camera system at the Joplin High School freshman-sophomore campus on West Eighth Street. Included is a five-year warranty for hardware, software and labor.

Board President Randy Steele previously said the surveillance system would add cameras in different locations to an existing system at the campus. A surveillance system also is in place at the high school’s junior-senior campus at Northpark Mall, he said.

The board also approved nearly $25.9 million in bid packages for concrete, fire suppression systems, plumbing and mechanical systems at Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center; about $1.18 million in bid packages for decorative aluminum leaf, roofing, sheet metal and elevators at Irving Elementary School; and $269,000 in change orders for construction projects already under way.

Upcoming

SUPERINTENDENT C.J. HUFF said the board will likely hold a work session between now and its February meeting to discuss the redistricting of elementary and middle schools in the wake of the May 2011 tornado.

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