School security in operation

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
Visitors to any of the schools in the Big Lake School district must now go to the main doors and find the security entrance boxes placed outside each building. 
During school hours, press the buzzer briefly and office staff monitoring the closed circuit system, which is equipped with high-resolution cameras, will open the door. “The buildings have actually been locked down for a couple of years now,” says Buildings and Grounds Manager Jack Ranallo, who has worked for the school district for the last 31 years.
“It’s all part of our safe buildings initiative. We wanted to have them up and running by 2014.”
There are five secured entrances in operation throughout the school day, one at the main door of each of the four schools and one for the District Office, which is located in the high school.
The secured monitoring stations have cameras which offer multiple views of anyone at the door. They supplement the external and internal security cameras already located inside and outside the buildings.
“We have never had any incidents,” said Ranallo. “But this is a great plus for school security.”
The schools do have a Liaison Officer, James Hintermeister, who works for the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. They also have internal security staff hired by the school district. The new Big Lake Police Dept. substation is also located on Minnesota Avenue, directly across from Independence Ele-mentary School.
“Everything we do here is for the safety and well-being of the students,” Ranallo said. “The main thing is the safety of the occupants.”
”Staff training and lock down drills have gone extremely well,” said Ranallo. “It’s amazing how fast all the buildings get quiet when we are having a lock-down practice drill.”
School safety issues are at the top of most discussions, Ranallo said.
“It is unfortunate we have to get to this point. That’s the sad part of it,” Ranallo said. “We discuss it all the time. All we can do is be pro-active.”
“I am really pleased with the way it has gone,” he said. “Our parents have been very receptive and we have state-of-the art equipment.”
Planning for the new installations began in September. The bulk of the work was completed in December and finished up over the recent break. Not only can the new cameras see more, they keep a record too.
“The system is expandable if we want to add to it later,” Ranallo said. “The new security system is a great asset. People can feel safer and more comfortable while they are in the buildings.”
Ranallo supervises a staff of 19 custodians and groundskeepers
“Its all about the students,” Ranallo said “We do everything we can to maintain the buildings and grounds and keep them up. I have a great staff. They do a good job and they make me look good.”
The entire system cost approximately $55,000. This money came from a one-time capital funding source and was earmarked for school safety. 


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