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A Conversation With … Bret Range

Executive Director of Student and School Services, Springfield Public Schools

Posted online

With the passage of Proposition S, Springfield Public Schools secured $7.8 million to create secure entrances at 31 schools. Walk us through that process.
We have three done or almost done. We’ve got (Parkview), Central is close and Study is close. Secure entrances should be completed by summer 2020. At every school you’re going to come to a locked door and then on the outside of that is the talk box. We’d ask visitors to press the button, identify themselves and identify their reason for the visit. (The secretary) puts eyes on that person, talks to the person and then she releases them into the vestibule. If the person is just in the office just to deal with office stuff, then we can do all that here and we won’t issue them a visitor badge because they’re not going to go be around other kids. But if they are going to be around kids, then we will scan their information. We prefer a state-issued ID, but we can use a passport. You don’t have to have ID. We can use your legal name and birth date to scan the system. Once the badge is made, (the secretary) verifies why you’re here and then will release you through that door into the building.

What is the new standardized system for checking visitors, and what’s the cost?
The reason we implemented the visitor management system is, No. 1, all our 50 schools didn’t have standardized visitor management. The badges look different and most of them didn’t have pictures on there. No. 2, every time somebody comes in to be around kids and we scan them, it’s scanning them against the national sex offender database to make sure that we’re giving access to people that they should be getting access to. And we never had that. It’s called Hall Pass. It’s very fast. That’s what we liked about it. It was $78,233 the first year and then there is a $21,006 subscription fee each year on top of that. It was a three-year contract.

According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, 2018 was the deadliest year on record for school shootings with 83 students killed or injured. Since Columbine, 228,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school. Was that the impetus for these upgrades?
For sure. We’ve always been serious about this. The talk boxes were put in a couple of years back, and we didn’t have those prior. I think just the climate and what is going on at the national front related to school violence is the impetus of why this started. The last (school shooting), which was Parkland, that stayed in the news for a long time. These kids at (Parkview) walked out one day. It was a peaceful, “Hey, we’re expecting school safety to be taken seriously.” This is our response to all of that. In 2019, this is where we’re at. The parents expect us to do everything we can to make sure that we’re keeping the people out that shouldn’t be up here.

How you are addressing school safety outside of physical upgrades?
The one thing that lots of people don’t know is we’re totally lucky to work in a school district that has its own police force. We’ve got 26, 27 officers. Every secondary school has got an officer and then our elementary schools have patrol officers. That’s really our first responders. No. 2, mental health is a constant issue with kids, with families. We went into an agreement with Burrell [Behavioral Health] last year. They’re providing resources for us where we can actually provide services to kids and families on campus. That happened in all the Hillcrest feeder pattern in spring of last year. It’s deployed right now at (Parkview) and its feeder pattern and all the early childhood centers. In January, we’ll do it in the Central feeder pattern. That’s a huge initiative. We’ve never had the mental health support that we have now. Our school counselors can only do so much.

Bret Range can be reached at bgrange@spsmail.org.

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