Small Changes, New Technology Make a Big Difference for School Safety

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Thanks to Denver voters, DPS buildings are safer than they’ve ever been. A 2016 bond measure provided funding for the district to add extra layers of safety in every single school, a priority voiced by students, families and staff. 

More than 8,500 doors in DPS have recently received new locks. A simple lock may seem like a trivial change, but there is an important difference in the update — every teacher can now lock their door from inside the classroom with the push of a button, whereas classroom doors previously could only be locked from the outside with a key. Teachers must take swift, efficient steps to secure their classrooms during a lockdown, so the change to a simple, push-button lock can save several valuable seconds in an emergency.  “The push locks make lockdowns so much easier for teachers,” says Erika Grimes, an ECE teacher at Stedman Elementary. “Instead of focusing on how to make a lock mechanism work, I can rapidly get my students to a safe space. In an already stressful situation, this small change has a big impact.”

Another security measure made possible through the bond was the update of 66 schools’ main entry intercom systems. By upgrading audio-only systems to include video capability, office staff in those buildings may now visually identify anybody who wishes to enter the building. In addition, the 45 Discovery Link program sites received mobile monitoring capabilities for their before and after-school staff. This system allows Discovery Link staff to remotely monitor their program location entrance from an iPad application and allow or deny entry. Maria Trujillo, Discovery Link Program Supervisor at Stephen Knight Center for Early Education, has noticed a difference in program quality without the continuous interruptions that came from staff coming and going to physically open the door for parents. “Now, we look at the iPad, identify who is at the door, and tap to let them in,” says Trujillo. “If it’s an unfamiliar face, another tap allows you to ask the person to identify themselves. It’s great being in control of who enters the building to ensure the safety of our students.”

Additional funding from a 2019 bond premium allowed for another school safety upgrade that was previously missing: outdoor emergency notification. The outdoor notification system provides both audio and visual notifications should a school be placed in a lockdown or lockout. Currently being installed in every district-owned building across the district, these systems will alert students and staff who are on playgrounds or athletic fields in case of an emergency inside or outside the building.

With updated technology and safety measures in every DPS building across the city, principals, teachers and staff can focus their efforts on education and enrichment for students within safe and welcoming schools.