Added security coming to D-300 high schools

CARPENTERSVILLE – A new alert system that uses strobe lights and audio messages to alert students and staff of lockdown situations will soon be added to the hallways at District 300's three high schools.

The safety system is the main project of a renewed $65,000 budget line item in 2015 for districtwide security improvements that will be paid through student fee increases.

The new alert system that adds a visual notification was needed after some teachers at the district's three high schools said they couldn't hear the PA system during lockdown drills, said District 300 safety director Gary Chester.

"For all of our schools, we want to make sure we have comprehensive notification," Chester said. "What we want to do is give more than just the verbal announcement. We want to couple that with a visual notification as well and to be able to active that system from any telephone inside the school."

Board members from the Carpentersville-based school district on Monday decided to forge ahead with the system after they included it in a $509,000 grant application that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency rejected earlier this year.

The system builds upon the existing PA systems at Jacobs, Dundee-Crown and Hampshire high schools.

Any staff member will be able to activate the system, which includes a pre-recorded message notifying the school of a lockdown situation. It also will automatically notify police.

More than two dozen strobe lights that are designed to alert people in hallways and common areas of a lockdown also will be added to each high school.

Elmhurst-based Pentegra Systems will be awarded the $48,000 contract to install the systems, once board members officially approve the bid in early August. The installation should be completed by the end of September, Chester said.

During the meeting Monday, Chester also said the district's middle and elementary schools could see similar systems installed within the next two school years.

But Chief Executive Officer Fred Heid warned the security rollout may take longer since it's tied to higher student fees. The board in January increased fees for the first time since the 2009-10 school year.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about our ability to phase this into all schools," Heid said. "While we did it at the high schools, I can't state as a fact that we will do all the middle schools next year."

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