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ACGC in west central Minn. will implement new school security measures

Plans are in place to lock the exterior doors and install cameras, monitors and an intercom system in the elementary school building in Atwater and the middle school/high school in Grove City. Tribune photo

GROVE CITY — New security measures are being implemented at school buildings in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District to provide extra protection for students and staff.

The district had been discussing security issues prior to the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut but that incident “solidified” the decision to go ahead with the added security here, said Elementary Principal Kodi Goracke in a report Monday night to the ACGC school board.

Plans are in place to lock the exterior doors and install cameras, monitors and an intercom system in the elementary school building in Atwater and the middle school/high school in Grove City.

Parents and other visitors who want to enter the buildings will have to push a buzzer to alert a school staffer who will have access to a monitor to view the individual at the door and allow or deny entry by remotely unlocking the doors.

“We’ve always had our front door open. It’s kind of the way our community has been with people coming in and out of our school,” said Goracke. “So it’ll be a change for us. But all the parents know it’s for safety.”

Installation of the equipment is expected to be completed by March 1, said Goracke.

The total cost for the project is $6,200, which will come from the district’s general fund.

“It’s a benefit and I think parents will view it as a safety and protection for their kids,” said Goracke.

Superintendent Sherri Broderius said locking exterior doors of the buildings will have an “immediate effect” on school safety. She said other safety measures, including improvements for locking classrooms, are also being considered and may be included in future budgets.

Meanwhile, the district has been conducting mandatory lock-down training sessions for students and staff and in December the elementary school was used by the Atwater Police Department and other law enforcement officers in Kandiyohi County for a two-day training class.

Goracke said the officers conducted a variety of scenarios in the school with the premise that an individual was shooting a gun in the building.

That training was conducted about a week after the Sandy Hook incident.

In other action:

-The board was informed that district staff will be meeting with the Cosmos Economic Development Authority Feb. 7 to discuss proposals for the former Cosmos elementary school building. The district currently leases the building to the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative for educational programs for individuals with autism.

- Lisa Gregoire, school improvement specialist with the SW/WC Service Cooperative gave the board an update on the North Collaborative Pilot project that includes seven area school districts, including ACGC, working together to mine data from student tests to identify and implement leadership and best practices in classrooms. The three-year program is in its first year.

Four-day school week

The Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board gave the go-ahead this week to submit the district’s application to the state to continue operating on a four-day week school calendar.

Superintendent Sherri Broderius said she’s aware that Gov. Mark Dayton doesn’t favor the shortened school week but hopes positive measures in ACGC’s plan will win the district approval to continue the flexible learning schedule for another three years.

She said the district has improved test school, added two additional student contact days to the calendar and actually increased the total class time for students compared with their five-day schedule.

Broderius said the district is also being innovative in how it uses the Monday days off, which oftentimes includes professional development training for teachers and enrichment classes for students prior to statewide tests.

A web-based survey of parents, students and staff indicates the four-day school week is popular in the district.

The survey included 529 people who were asked to rank their opinion of the four-day week on a scale of 1-5 with one indicating a negative opinion about the four-day week and five indicating a desire to keep the 4-day calendar.

The non-scientific survey showed that 79 percent of the participants favor keeping the four-day week and 5 percent want to go back to the five-day school calendar. The others had varying degrees of opinion on the scale.

Sam Ammermann, the student representative to the school board, said students he’s talked to are very happy with the four-day schedule.

“We’re settled in .People have adjusted to it,” he said. “It feels like a whole another day has been added to your life.”

Ammermann said student opposition to the four-day week is “non-existent.”

In a discussion about adding classes to the curriculum, Broderius said the only way the district could afford to consider adding classes is if the district is allowed to keep realizing cost-savings by operating on a four-day calendar.

Broderius said she’s been working on the four-day application since Dec. 20 and hoped to have it in the mail to the Minnesota Department of Education this week.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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