When Millard West installed higher security provisions for entering and exiting the building two years ago, it looked cool. As a sophomore, the idea of the doors having automatic locks and security cameras seemed impressive. The entire concept seemed like a modern, high-technology solution to any endangerment of another person on the premises.
As a senior, I am less than thrilled. While the concept seems full-proof, and much safer than other schools, it is ultimately flawed.
Four parking lots surround the school. Each has a name dedicated to it by the students. On the northeast of the school lies the “clean” lot. It faces the front of the building. Conveniently placed in front of the main entrance, most students strive to find a space there, especially the seniors. The “dirty” lot faces the south (left) side of the school. For any student who arrives later than eight, the option of entering through the side doors is closed off. They must walk up to the main doors, where the security guards can let them in. The freshest addition to Millard West, the “new” lot, faces the rear side of the building. The students must tread the longest of all three journeys to the front since the other doors are locked.
Of course, unless someone manages to snag a spot in the clean lot, nobody really does this willingly. Many first attempt a miracle–to find a merciful stranger happening to pass by, and hope he/she will open the doors. This tactic often takes a great deal of time and pounding on the doors to get attention. Unless the temperatures fall low, waiting is not worth the torture of watching people ignore the crowd gathering. It also comes with a risk. Once in a while, a teacher will see the students and force them to move on.
Some text or call a friend to let them in. While clever, the method is not exactly reliable. Unfortunately, not many people have a classroom close enough to an entrance, let alone the ability to actually escape class if someone is running late. All seniors might as well throw that idea in the discard pile if he/she has open campus.
That leaves one option. Walk to the front. I would happily do this when the sun is shining, but I live in Nebraska. Most school days here are spent in the cold. By the time I enter the school, my fingernails are purple, my ears and cheeks red, and I have lost any chance of feeling warm. Some might say, “Well, students should dress appropriately to school.” That’s great. I totally agree. Except there comes a point where these expectations need to be realistic. No student will show up to school in their snow pants, coat, and snow boots. So when it comes to below freezing, students expose themselves to the cold. Then one by one, another one bites the frost. Students are miserable, tired, and of course, frozen.
Many times I panic, searching for one empty parking spot. After driving around the parking lots two or three times, wasting about ten minutes, I make my way into the building out of breath. Usually, I pop into class completely scattered. Most of the time, I may have only missed ten minutes, but oftentimes the class has already emerged itself into a new math lesson, English discussion, or science lab. So even when I take my seat and get my stuff out, I feel out of place and completely behind.
With access to multiple doors, the amount of tardies will lower. Along with more students arriving on time, there would be more focus in the classroom and less stress like what I often had to experience.
From the start of a school day to the end, the doors are locked. When a person approaches the front doors, he/she presses the PUSH button, letting off a dinging sound. A security guard looks through the camera and decides whether the person is allowed in, based on certain measures.
If the security guard can easily identify the student, he/she unlocks the door. However, as Principal Greg Tiemann said, if it happens to be an unrecognizable adult, the stranger must answer a few questions through the intercom, such as who they are and their purpose for coming to Millard West. If there seems to be any danger, with a student or stranger, the security guard will bring the deputy to accompany him/her.
“We always want to make sure our students are protected,” Tiemann said. He added he is happy the school has our current security.
I agree. I could not be happier with being able to attend such secure, high-quality institution. But the door situation needs some modification. End of story.
There are some logical options the school has in place to try and help. For example, teachers can let in students they know. Security guards also try to station themselves near the dirty lot and back of the school, at certain times, to let in some students.
“I wouldn’t fault the teacher if they know who the student is,” Tiemann said. “What I have really strong caution against is somebody letting someone in they don’t know.”
Unfortunately, with over 2,000 students, security guards and teachers cannot positively identify everyone.
At times, the security guards will walk down and open the doors during passing period. This does not happen for every passing period, however. The most reliable time to find the door held open is during a sunny, morning. In other words, not during snow or rain, when kids actually need to get in sooner.
There needs to be another solution than this. Some schools with higher security risks, such as those in the Prince George’s County school system, require kids to wear an identification badge around the building, using it to scan in and out of campus. While highly secure, this level of safety is unnecessary.
All the school needs to do is expand the cameras and “push” buttons to two or three more locations around the building. It will not be perfect, but it will be better.