Guilford middle school to test buzzer access for visitors

Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — School officials are planning to test-drive a system in the next month that would require buzzer access for people visiting Abraham Baldwin Middle School.

The district has been improving its security systems in recent months, installing cameras and key-card access to allow teachers to keep side doors locked during the school day. Although the upgrades had been in the works since last year, they come in the wake of the theft of six laptops from three schools in December.

The buzzer system, which district officials are considering implementing on a wider scale, would require visitors to ring a bell at the front door and front-office employees to buzz them into the building.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said that the district is planning to run a two-week test of the system in the next month. During the test, he said, parents visiting the school and the staff members operating the buzzer system will be asked to fill out a survey about the experience.

“One of the concerns was how much time this would take away from the secretaries’ work, and how the parents would feel about this entrance system, (possibly) making them feel not welcomed in the school,” he said.

The school district’s 2008-09 budget includes $50,000 for security upgrades, and the district also received a $12,000 state grant, Forcella said. With that funding, workers have installed security cameras and swipe-card access at all of the district’s elementary schools, as well as cameras and the buzzer access at Baldwin.

The school, which serves fifth- and sixth-graders, is one of the three where a parent allegedly stole teachers’ laptops in December.

“One of the problems at Baldwin and a couple of our schools (is that) the office is not one where, when people come into the building, you can see them, so it’s a blind entrance,” Forcella said. “What concerned us is the ease of access this person and how they were able to access the building without being noticed, so that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to install this particular security enhancement to Baldwin.”

Depending on the results of the two-week test of the door buzzers, Forcella said, the system could be expanded to other schools.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said that the district will have to weigh factors of safety and parents’ and other visitors’ access to the school.

“On the one hand, you don’t want to have schools hard to get to for people who belong there; on the other hand, you don’t want to just allow anyone in the building who has the ability to open a door,” Bloss said. “We’re trying to balance that and we’ll see what the thoughts are of the (parent-teacher organization) at that school and the parents.”

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