School district speeding timeline for single-point entry

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Rita Cannan Elementary is 54 years old. It was designed and built in a different time with simpler concerns with an open campus, separate classroom buildings with doors that required a teacher to step outside to lock in case of a lockdown.

The Washoe County School District embarked on a project to renovate its older schools that began to change and with it, it got a security make-over.

Secure perimeter fencing blocked the not-infrequent wanderer who once simply cut across the playground. And it got a single-point entry upgrade.

Once the school day begins, anyone needing to get in walks through the front door, has to state his purpose, sign in, get a visitor's pass and then and only then is buzzed through a locked door to the school itself.

"In the course of the school day when kids are in class, anybody that accesses the school building is supposed to come through the single-point entry," says the district's Chief Facilities Management Officer Joe Gabica. "That's the way it's supposed to work."

But today 24 of the district's 63 elementary schools lack single-entry security. The district has been systematically bringing all up to date, scheduling upgrades at several schools each summer break, the oldest and those furthest from first responders at the head of the line.

At this week's board meeting, some parents told the school board that wasn't fast enough.

"It's over two years away and that's too far away," one mother said.. "My children and those at the 24 other schools deserve to be safe the next school year."

As Superintendent Traci Davis told those parents, the timeline is being shortened.

"We are re-prioritizing and making some changes so we can get single point of entry much earlier."

All elementary schools were to have single-entry security by fall 2020. The district decided to speed up that timeline late last year.

"We want our kids to be safe," says Gabica. "That's the main thing and this is important and accelerating it by a year is something we had been talking about doing and now we are doing. It's as simple as that."

Funding from passage of the WC-1 ballot question is making it possible.

Middle schools have gotten the same treatment. It's difficult to apply the single-entry solution to high schools, because of their operation with students coming and going at different times.

Some --Sparks High, for instance -- have been able to do it. Others, especially those with campus designs like Hug and Wooster, are more difficult.