OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Students head back to the classroom in Shawnee Mission this week and after a year of violence at schools across the nation, leaders here hope to bring some extra security and peace of mind to students and families.
The Shawnee Mission School Board unanimously approved spending no more than $250,000 dollars to add another layer security to keep students and staff safe.
Currently, visitors to Shawnee Mission elementary or middle schools just have make it past the locked main entrance.
Over the course of August, the district will install another lock in the vestibules of 44 schools.
"There were remote controls, but in some cases, you know, like your remote control at home, it disappears," David Smith, chief communications officer for the Shawnee Mission School District said. "You don't find it. These are all going to be hardwired in so there will be be two desks that have line of sight or video with the individual at the front door."
The district also plans to print and post their emergency procedures in all their classrooms, outlining what to do whenever there's a lockdown, evacuation or a code red — that would be activated in the case of an active shooter or intruder.
"We don't wait, we don't need an authority," Mark Schmidt, chief of police and director of emergency services in the district, said. "We train with every police department in Johnson County. We all train the same, when you get there, you go."
Moving forward, the district will notify parents on when they'll conduct their three crisis drills required by law.
"Be honest with you, most of the kids, especially the younger ones, if you do a code red, they go home and tell their families anyway, which is great," Dr. Joe Gilhaus, the district's deputy superintendent, said. "But the bottom line is there's nothing to hide and it's full transparency. So we will be communicating with our families."
But some worry the consequences such drills have on students’ well being.
"It can be very dramatic," Leanna Barclay with Johnson County's Moms Demand Action said. "I think, there's a way to handle get this message out with sensitivity."
The district assures that's being considered.
Dr. Michelle Hubbard, the district's superintendent, shared her recent experience during Monday evening's board meeting
"The principal came on the intercom, immediately said ‘All right, this is just a reminder, we're going to do a drill. This is not real,'" Hubbard said. "She was very explicit in in her language about what we're going to do, why we're going to do it and how we're going to do it. So, I'm hopeful that we continue to get better at that."
Students and staff will notice that school police will not have traditional uniforms. Officers will be sporting polos in order to be more approachable.