Updating security at H-W

Rick Busch spoke at the school board meeting on May 21.

How much is the safety of our kids worth? That is what Howard-Winneshiek School Board members will be asking themselves in the future.

Rick Busch, who is a government contractor for Homeland Security/ Emergency Management, and Harold Jensen, a member of the tech department, spoke to the board at its May 21 meeting, held at Lime Springs-Chester Elementary.

Busch conducts security assessments on critical infrastructure. He acquired teh security assessment skills in the miliar, in the special operations community, as an anti-terrorismadn force protection members and instructor during hsi 21 years in the service.

Busch stated, “Two years ago former Crestwood Principal Jim Zajicek and several staff asked if I would conduct an assessment on the high school, which I did. They have made significant strides in improving safety and security at their site by conducting table top exercises and drills.”

He gave some security assessments about the schools, and added the assessments are grant-funded and are provided at no cost to the asset sites.

Busch said, “The high school has made significant strides by having lock downs and shelter-in-place drills.” After each drill, more is learned on how to make it go better next time.

His suggestion was to have a more secure outside.

Jensen did an initial walk-through some of the buildings. “I felt it was needed to secure buildings [better]. We just did Cresco. We walked through the three buildings (high school, junior high and elementary) checking security cameras, controlled doors and new locks.” The cost for updating the system could be $300,000-400,000. Elma has also been inspected and Lime Springs-Chester will be inspected in the near future.

A plan could be initiated that takes the upgrades in phases.

Busch said Elma and Lime Springs could have their exterior secure by building a dry wall construction partition wall. Each has interior space just inside their respective main entry point for a walled partition with a steel door that you would have to be buzzed in by a secretary or a staff member. This would allow parents, family members and visitors a space to enter out of the weather, pickup a phone on the wall or intercom and request entry.

This would prevent or at least slow down someone who is running from the police after a chase near the school, someone dealing with mental health issues off their medication who may attempt to wander into the school, or an outraged parent dealing with the stress of a custody situation.

These are just a few examples of situations that have taken place in Iowa schools. It is a relatively inexpensive first step and many schools in Iowa have gone to this security concept.

Acting board president Duane Bodermann agreed, “Safety is important to parents.”

Later in the meeting, the HVAC (Heating/Ventilating/ Air Conditioning) system was discussed.

Currently, many classrooms at the high school do not have air conditioning. Elma does not have air, either.

James Kitchen observed, “I went to school here and I don’t remember it being so hot.”

Bodermann joked, “That was 1978 and you were baling hay and stuff in the summer. We didn’t need air conditioning.”

Board members did concede the air conditioning goes beyond comfort and is also in the safety category. With no air, teachers are sometimes forced to open doors and windows for ventilation—leaving the school vulnerable.

Todd Knobloch, Grounds Director, gave some figures on getting 33 units added to the approximate 50 currently in use. David Gaus, Business Manager, explained, “After purchasing the iPads and buses, there is $101,786.05 left in the 2009 bond money.” The cost of the condensing units plus contractor is $66,092.41, and the digital controls are $68,460.00. That is $32,766.36 over the bond money and will be paid for from PPEL funds.

One big concern board members had was in regards to money. First, what sort of rebates will the school be eligible for? Knobloch has a former student who now works at Alliant investigating rebates.

The second issue was electricity. Knobloch said it might not be as expensive as might be expected because it would save on the current air conditioners working overtime, cooling hallways and classrooms not cooled and would alleviate the need for two to three fans running in each of the rooms.

Bodermann said, “I’m cheap, but after hearing about having to shut down in an emergency, I’m starting to change my mind in the last hour.” The other board members agreed and voted to put in air conditioning at the high school as a first step to being able to have a secure building. Elma will be discussed in the future.

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