Three Jackson County schools have new security entrances.

The Jackson County Board of Education provided funding to install new entrances at Fairplain, Gilmore and Cottagville elementary schools over the summer, Jackson County Schools Superintendent Blaine Hess said. The new entryways allow school personnel to better control access to the buildings.

The cost of the project was $111,800.

“Now when people enter these schools, they are in a waiting area where they have to be further authorized to proceed,” Hess said. “It’s another layer so that someone can’t just walk into our schools. We’re very pleased with the work we’ve done this year.”

Some schools already have these entrances, while some do not, Hess said. Next summer, additional schools should receive these updated entryways and the work will continue until all schools have them, he said.

“Our priority is to place them in the schools that are farthest away in terms of law enforcement response,” Hess said.

In addition to access-control entrances, the entryways also have electronic door locks and and bullet-resistant service windows to protect school administrators who are vetting visitors.

“The window allows secretaries or principals to speak to and view visitors, but there’s no way that glass is going to be broken,” Hess said.

Installing the entrances was a straightforward process at Fairplain and Cottageville.

“There, it was just a matter of adding a window and a second interior wall and set of doors,” Hess said.

The project at Gilmore was more complicated.

“We had to construct a new entrance. Before, the entry was directly into the cafeteria, which is certainly not a good place to enter the building,” Hess said.

Workers had to remodel the office area to make it work, Hess said.

“We had to utilize an existing room at the office, relocate a small restroom and reconfigure the office in order to accommodate the entrance,” he said. “That was the most intricate project, but just turned out exceptionally well.

Interiors Plus, a local contractor, won the bid to install the entrances.

In addition to the physical improvements, school officials have spent the first few weeks of the school year reviewing security protocols.

“We feel pretty confident in our measures, though we’re always learning new things. My hat’s off to local emergency response agencies, because not only are they very quick to respond, but they’re great resources as we plan for future improvements,” Hess said.

For instance, Ravenswood Police Chief Lance Morrison recently spent some time with school administrators to talk about safety and security. Among is advice was the importance of remaining vigilant.

“He stressed that we have to be diligent and fight complacency – that we should follow procedure each and every time we let someone in. Even if it’s someone known to the school,” Hess said.

The local community is also proactive when it comes to school safety. For example, the group We Care meets frequently to discuss school security and ways to support the county’s effort to make schools safer.

“When we’re talking about approaches to security, they’re in the loop and they’re looking for ways to help enhance our efforts,” Hess said. “We certainly appreciate that support and cooperation. It really takes a lot of people working together to provide the safest environment possible.”