GREENFIELD — When Susan Ford wanted to visit her daughter at school a few weeks ago, all she had to do was sign in at the main office and write her name on a visitor badge.
No one verified she was a parent, and she was able to walk the halls unattended.
The Greenfield mother of three said the experience left her feeling unnerved; who else is in the schools with her children, she wondered. So when she learned the school district put a new security system in place, she was happy.
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This week, Greenfield-Central schools began using a new visitor management system that scans visitors’ IDs and compares their information to the sex and violent offender registry. The system will help school officials better track who is in their buildings and when, ultimately providing safer learning environments for students, said Superintendent Harold Olin.
In a letter to parents, Olin said the new system, called the Raptor Visitor Management System, will help the district build on campus safety procedures already in place while ensuring sex offenders aren’t walking through school buildings.
“The safety of our students is our highest priority, and the visitor management system provides a consistent way to aid in keeping our students safe from potential dangers,” Olin wrote in his letter to parents.
The Raptor visitor system, which cost Greenfield-Central schools about $14,000 to install this year, has identified more than 15,000 sex offenders attempting to enter schools since the system was founded in 2003, according to the Raptor Technologies website. More than 15,000 schools now use the program.
The procedure is simple — when someone enters the building, they’ll need to present a valid, state-issued ID, which will be scanned into the Raptor system. The system scans names, dates of birth and photos and compares them with the national database of sex offenders. Other personal information listed on IDs, such as addresses or driver’s license numbers, won’t be scanned into the system.
Once entry is approved, the system will print a visitor’s badge that identifies the visitor, the date, and the reason for being in the school. Badges won’t be necessary for parents who are just dropping items off at school for their students.
Ford said she knows there’s no way to ensure students are always 100 percent safe inside schools, but installing the new visitor system is a step in the right direction.
She feels safer knowing there’s a now a system in place to verify whether someone on the sex offender registry is entering her children’s schools.
Similar systems are in place at other county schools.
A system called LobbyGuard has been used to scan an ID and take a photo of visitors entering the buildings at Mt. Vernon’s five schools, said communications director Maria Bond. The same system is in place at Eastern Hancock schools.
At Southern Hancock, doors are locked and office staff have to let visitors in — and at several Southern Hancock schools, visitors sign in through an electronic program.
At Greenfield-Central schools, visitors already were required to sign in, and in most cases, wear a visitor badge. At J.B. Stephens Elementary, visitors were required to leave an ID with staff before they could leave the main office — a system Ford liked when she visited her child at the school earlier this school year.
The system was paid for through grant dollars for safe school projects. Olin hopes parents respond to the change well.
“School security is the most important thing we do,” he said. “I think parents want to know that when they leave their kids at school, they’re in good hands.”
“I think parents want to know that when they leave their kids at school, they’re in good hands.”
– Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools, on a new security program