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Security plans outlined for Baldwin-Whitehall school buildings

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Visitors entering Baldwin High School are greeted by a staffer who ensures they are going to the right place.

That person allows parents, guardians and visitors to the school past the double set of locked doors. At the four other schools in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, the entrances and security levels vary but changes could be coming.

“Once folks are basically buzzed into the building, there's no necessary guarantee that they come into the office,” Superintendent Randal Lutz said.

Facilities changes costing as much as $715,000 could help to improve security at the entryways of J.E. Harrison Middle School and the district's three elementary schools, based on preliminary plans presented to the school board last week by HHSDR Architects/Engineers Inc. representative Greer Hayden.

Board members agreed to allow plans to move forward for the security upgrades, as well as for several other facilities projects.

Security improvements have been a focus for the last 18 months, Lutz said, with visitor procedure and student dismissal procedures being altered.

“We do believe that we're ready for the next phase — that is some of the physical improvements of our facilities,” he said.

One of the concerns at the elementaries and middle schools is visitor access.

“The offices aren't in the best locations for today's security needs,” Hayden said.

At McAnnulty, Hayden recommended replacing the entrance doors and opening a new connecting doorway between the vestibule and office area to force visitors to stop in the office before heading into the hallways.

At W.R. Paynter, Hayden said the entrance would need to be replaced, with the addition of a vestibule area at the front.

“So we have, again, better control of that visitor,” Hayden said.

Changes would be made at Whitehall Elementary and J.E. Harrison Middle School.

Harrison is the most challenging, Hayden said, because the office is across the hall from the entrance. He recommended moving it to where a classroom is located.

Board member Patricia Nixon asked that bulletproof glass be looked at for the schools.

If these projects were to move forward, bids would be awarded in the spring with the bulk of construction done during the summer, Hayden said. He has yet to meet with school principals, so the plans could be adjusted.

Other projects proposed included adding air conditioning to the Baldwin High School gymnasium, at a cost of $250,000, with construction completed by May.

Storage could be added to the high school stadium area, with a one-story building added near the visitor bleacher section, at a proposed cost of $165,000.

Work to improve the deteriorating bleachers on the home side would cost about $78,000.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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