Several metro schools make security upgrades before classes start to keep kids safe

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's a growing focus on school security in wake of mass shootings around the country. Because of that, at least three districts in the metro are making big changes before students return to class.

The race is on to finish up school safety projects before the first bells ring this week. You'll notice the changes right when you walk up to school buildings.

"Knock on wood, nothing has ever happened here. We hope it stays that way. We're just going to continue to put things into place to deter any type of activity from happening in this district," said Chad Phillips, Park Hill School District's safety and security director.

The trend is creating secure entry points. Districts want to know exactly who is coming into a school and why.

Park Hill, Liberty and Blue Valley are all adding video doorbell systems.

With the new system, when you first walk up to a school, you'll see these buzzers and push the button, and do a quick photo ID check.

That instant screening can tell schools if you're a registered sex offender, on a do-not-contact list, or have been banned from the building for any reason.

"My goodness, Sandy Hook traumatized the whole country, and it's terrible. And just the thought something like that could happen here is enough to get people very active and interested in really protecting our kids," said Dan Carney, director of safety and security for Blue Valley Schools.

In Park Hill and Liberty, construction was needed to shuffle how you get into school buildings.

At Liberty Middle School, for example, the entryway areas used to be wide open. Now, you'll have to go into an enclosed area and wait for a security check.

"We had a secured system where you had to wait outside and buzz a bell and we could ask you to state your business. But once you came inside the building, you were often standing in a building within feet of a few hundred children in the area we`re standing right now. So this new system takes care of that," said Gary Majors, Liberty School District's director of safety and security.

Blue Valley Schools are phasing in new secured entries district-wide, and they're adding even more layers of safety. Middle schools will soon have part-time school resource officers made into full-time positions.

"We thought, you know, maybe it's also time to kind of ramp up and make that middle school protection a little more robust," Carney said.

They're also expanding access to Crime Stoppers TIPS for teens app, which they urge every student to use. It allows kids to send anonymous information straight to authorities.

"Maybe it's they have a friend who put something on social media about harming themselves, or maybe about harming others, and they text that tip, and that tip is received immediately by one of the operators at the tips hotline, 24 hours a day," Carney said.

The district's also created a safety committee that will meet regularly to review security measures.

While the threat of tragedy striking is low, schools know they have to be prepared and do whatever possible to keep kids safe.

"We don't want them to be consumed with fear because you are still seven times more likely to be struck by lightning twice than to be injured in an active shooter situation. But we want you to be concerned. Not consumed, but concerned and prepared," Majors said.

All 18 schools in the Park Hill School District will require photo IDs for visitors starting Wednesday, the first day of school. Blue Valley and Liberty are phasing in their new entry points throughout the year.

All of them encourage you to practice patience as everyone adjusts to the changes.



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