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Ogden schools to get security systems to control entry of visitors

By Tim Vandenack - | Aug 17, 2022
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East Ridge Elementary School Principal Maridee Harrison discusses the secure-entry system at the school in a photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Ogden school officials have approved funding to install such systems at nine other facilities.
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East Ridge Elementary School Principal Maridee Harrison discusses the secure-entry system at the school, shown in the upper right side of the photo, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Ogden school officials have approved funding to install such systems at nine other facilities.

OGDEN — Violent incidents over the years at schools across the country have prompted jitters among parents, school officials and students everywhere.

Now, in a bid to counter local worries and augment safety, new security systems — video doorbells — are coming to nine Ogden School District schools. Visitors won’t be able to enter unimpeded — they’ll first get a once-over from an office administrator via the doorbell camera, who will have to release the door lock before they can get in.

The Ogden school board on Aug. 4 approved the $46,739 proposal to cover the cost of the change and the systems will be installed over the next two months, probably by Nov. 1. Classes start for the 2022-2023 school year in Ogden on Friday. Bonneville, Heritage, Lincoln, James Madison, New Bridge, Odyssey, Shadow Valley and Wasatch elementary schools are to get them, as well as Highland Junior High School.

District spokesperson Jer Bates said the move wasn’t prompted by any particular incident. Education Week reported there were 27 shootings at U.S. schools between Jan. 1 and May 24, the date of the incident at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 dead.

Rather, Ogden school officials review safety measures each year and 2022-2023 “happened to be the year” they were able to implement change, Bates said. Three new or rebuilt elementary schools — East Ridge, Polk and Liberty — also have secure-entry systems.

Back when Horace Mann Elementary was still around, Principal Maridee Harrison remembers with chagrin the hit-and-miss security at the school. The school was torn down and replaced by East Ridge Elementary, which opened last year.

Because the main office in the heart of Horace Mann had a sight line through the cafeteria to an entry, visitors were directed to enter the school through that doorway. Even if staffers couldn’t control entry, at least they could see who was entering the school.

“We could see them walk in but I didn’t know who they were,” said Harrison, now principal of East Ridge.

It was problematic at best and Harrison lauds the secure system in place at East Ridge, similar to the systems to be installed in the other schools.

Nobody “passes our front door without being buzzed in,” she said. “It’s just a more safe environment for our students, to make sure they’re protected.”

The system has even been enough to draw teachers to the school, Harrison said.

Installation of the video doorbell security systems is less feasible at Ben Lomond and Ogden high schools, Bates said, in part because students are more regularly coming and going from multiple entry points at the facilities. “We’ll continue to explore what options we have,” he said.

Hillcrest Elementary along with Mount Ogden and Mound Fort junior high schools received security systems at their main entrances last spring. The security system at Taylor Canyon Elementary, closed at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, was moved to George Washington High School over the summer.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Hillcrest Elementary has a security system. The Standard-Examiner had received incorrect information. Also, new information has been added about the addition of security systems at Mount Ogden and Mound Fort junior high schools and George Washington High School.

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