Visitors to Westerville City Schools soon will face a new line of security before they enter buildings.
The district is moving forward with a plan to install a buzzer system with cameras at the main entrances to all 22 school buildings before winter break.
The district has a standing committee to look at school safety, said Superintendent John Kellogg, and the committee began exploring two new elements when the state announced funding would be available to schools who implemented them.
One element is entry systems; the other is communications systems that can be used for communications between school districts, local law enforcement and local emergency responders.
"The new player in this was the dollars, or potential dollars, being offered by the state to the Ohio School Facilities Commission that can be used to offset the cost of specifically building entry systems," Kellogg said.
"The piece that we want to add and purchase was the door systems. That is less costly than the communication systems as we've started to dive into it."
The district estimates that the camera entry systems will cost about $75,000 districtwide.
"We felt we had within our facilities improvement plan that even if we weren't eligible for the state dollars, it was worth it," Kellogg said.
To be eligible for the state dollars, the district must first submit paperwork to the state for each building expressing that the district will apply for funds, said district spokesman Greg Viebranz.
After the work is completed, the district will have to submit paperwork with receipts and pictures of the project to the state, which will determine if funding will be granted, Viebranz said.
The state still has not opened the initial application period, but is expected to any day, he said.
Even without secure state funding, the project is worthwhile to enhance safety to school buildings, which mostly were designed before school planners began focusing on security, Kellogg said.
"Even the newer ones that are a decade old now are old enough that not enough thought was put into entry systems," Kellogg said. "(The door systems are) kind of a no-brainer in terms of looking to add to our safety systems."
With the new systems in place, multiple school doors would be open, as they are now, for arrival times, Kellogg said.
At a set time each day, all doors would be locked and all visitors would have to be "buzzed" in through the front door.
The district's safety committee will be working with each building to determine what procedures will be for admitting visitors and for having visitors met and escorted to their destinations when they enter buildings, Kellogg said.
"In a lot of cases, there's enough distance from the door entry to the office that you don't want to just buzz the person in and let them in the building free to roam," Kellogg said.
"We're not planning on adding any additional staff, but we will put in procedures that we'll talk about what people are responsible for manning (the entry system)."
As for the communications piece, the district has been talking with local law enforcement and emergency personnel about what kind of features would be needed in a communications system, said Assistant Superintendent Mark Hershiser.
"Those discussions are ongoing at this point, looking at that whole piece," Hershiser said.
Kellogg said the district has not explored potential systems deeply enough to have a concrete estimate of what such a communications system could cost.
"It's a little more complicated than going to Radio Shack," he said.