Schools buzz to safety

Published 10:26 am Friday, September 9, 2011

Southgate Elementary principal Edwina Harder demonstrates the school's new security doors Thursday afternoon. - Eric Johnson/

Parents and visitors to Austin’s elementary schools have an unexpected barrier to going to school this year: They have to buzz in.

Austin Public School officials installed controlled-access systems at the main entrances of all elementary schools during the summer as part of the district’s five-year security plan.

“We decided that that was going to be a priority for this year,” said Mat Miller, director of buildings and grounds.

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The main entrance of each building is locked during the school day. Visitors must use an intercom to get buzzed in by school staff, similar to the door system at Woodson Kindergarten Center.

The plan started after a 2007 security analysis showed the district’s security committee several areas district officials could improve on. Controlled access systems are one of the safety measures district staff pushed for.

Neveln Elementary Principal Dewey Schara helped advocate having the doors installed along with the district’s liaison officers.

“It’s just one more barrier to check who is coming in the building,” Schara said. “At Neveln, our office is so far from the entry that somebody could come in and go upstairs very, very easily.”

Though the system hasn’t come without its problems, as there have been a few camera issues and power supply troubles at the schools, administrators are praising the measure overall.

“It just really allows us to be able to have a better handle on who’s in our building,” said Southgate Elementary School Principal Edwina Harder.