BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- The Bloomington Public School district began the school year with new security measures at seven elementary schools, a system possible after a voter approved referendum.
The referendum allowed the Bloomington Public School District to fund the renovation of several school entrances and offices over the summer. The new steps revamp visitor safety and adopt new technology, alerting danger at the push of a button.
"We try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys because for everything new we add, which is often reactive, there are others out there thinking and coming up with plans," said Rick Kaufman, the district's Executive Director of Community Relations and Emergency Management.
At the seven elementary schools, visitors are immediately rerouted with inner double doors locked during the day, funneling people straight to the school office where they can check in and out of the school.
The district also installed "school safe activation buttons", commonly called panic buttons. The buttons can lock school entrances and trigger a school lockdown. At Ridgeview Elementary, a split second decision will be in the hands of school secretary Leanne Halaska, who says the measures save precious time.
"It gives me the opportunity to quickly lock a door if there is somebody coming into the building that looks like they could be posing a threat or if there is something happening outside," said Halaska. "So I don't feel nervous about it. I have been trained and I feel confident in what I am supposed to do, so I won't hesitate to press it if need be, but hoping I never have to."
Other new security measures include flashing lights in hallways and outside of buildings that can alert students and staff to a lockdown. Students will soon undergo drills to better understand the new system, which is designed to create barriers in the threat of an intruder, allowing law enforcement more time to respond.
Kaufman oversees the new plan to boost the district's security, a reality he unfortunately understands. He witnessed the Columbine shooting.
"I was at the right place, wrong time working for the school district in the same capacity, when the call came in we had shots fired at one of our high schools," said Kaufman. "It has become a passion and a promise I made to the victim's families back then that I carry with today."
Kaufman said the district has become a statewide leader with the new security technology. Schools with new safety measures include Hillcrest, Indian Mounds, Normandale Hills, Olson, Poplar Bridge, Ridgeview and Valley View, and Olson Middle.
Nine more schools are scheduled for security renovations in summer of 2015.
"We know no measure put in place is 100 percent foolproof," said Kaufman. "It brings a peace of mind to parents and community residents very concerned how society has changed and how vulnerable we have become in some respects."