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Mid-MO School Safety Questioned

The district uses ALICE training, standing for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Escape. Students at Lange Middle School even put together a video to teach other students what to do if a shooter is in the building.”The ALICE training was very eye-opening in a very different way of thinking about things,” said Lempke. “Kids throwing things at an intruder and the whole escaping as much as you can. Before that, we talked about hiding in our classrooms.”In Columbia, we saw how older schools adapt to security, by touring Douglass and Jeff Junior. But in Jefferson City, we went to the newest school in the district, Pioneer Trail. As soon as you walk up, you can see the perks of a newer building. In case the school wanted to lock down, keys are placed at the main entryways for teachers to swipe in.”If we are in a lockdown stage or if for some reason the office isn’t open yet, if there are deliveries of if a parent needs in, they ring the doorbell and someone from the office can come to the door and decide whether or not they are going to let them in,” said Pioneer Trail Elementary School principal Suzanne Wilson.Once inside, the design of the building forces all visitors to go through the office.”They kind of call this a locked entry,” said Wilson. “If someone was able to get in and didn’t have a key card, you’re locked into this space.”Inside the office, all visitors are required to sign in and get an identification badge. This is a practice in all Jefferson City and Columbia schools. The safety precautions don’t stop at the office. Students in different wings here are protected with a set of high-tech doors. But not all schools in Jefferson City are set up up like this one.”We have great security plans across the district and at the schools we do all the drills, but some schools are quite frankly just set up differently and set up better for different types of security,” said JCPS spokesperson David Luther.Luther says a goal of the district is to get cameras in all of the elementary schools, something that is currently happening.”We have a bond and levy coming up in April and part of the levy money goes towards district-wide security and improvements and so that will allow us to put in more cameras and look at types of doors we currently have,” said Luther. “We are looking at buzz-in systems or something similar.”Luther says even if it doesn’t pass, they will do what they can with the money they have.As far as SROs in Jefferson City, they are currently stationed at all the middle schools, the high school and the Simonsen 9th grade center. While the district would like more, money is tight, but they will continue a relationship with area law enforcement.”We have an open dialogue with administration and school staff,” said Captain Doug Shoemaker of the Jefferson City Police Department. “We are just an integral part of those schools now.”While it may seem like a lot of security in schools, there have been recent incidents. A chase in Columbia recently put schools on lockdown. Belcher says in that case, they wished they could have had outside cameras to track where the suspect might be.And at Pioneer Trail last March, a woman whose custody of her son had been temporarily suspended, hit a teacher when staff were trying to stop her from seeing her son. Superintendents say this type of issue is something dealt with daily.”Our biggest risk each day is dealing with issues of estranged families, custody disputes among families,” said Belcher.And with all the security plans and procedures in place, many know there is still a risk.”No security system is perfect and never will be,” said Cpt. Shoemaker. “We like to think our schools are safe. I think we’ve demonstrated excellent relationship and partnership with our schools. That doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to be better.”Both school districts say they will spend whatever money they can to make security upgrades where needed. Belcher says if it comes down to installing new carpet in a school or a new door system, they will make the security upgrades. He says they will be adding an SRO to Battle High School, which is set to open this fall.

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