All day long, the doors at Hawthorne Elementary are locked tight.
To be allowed inside, visitors now have to press a silver button and state their business into an intercom to the receptionist, who is watching them from a camera inside the school.
With a press of a button, the recently installed system has the ability to screen every person who walks in the building – and keep out individuals whose actions are deemed questionable.
"It's just one more layer of security to keep our kids safe," said Director of Custodian, Maintenance and Operations Mitch Ridgway.
The buzz-in entry, launched earlier this year, is an added security measure being tested at Hawthorne for consideration at the other school buildings in the district. Ridgway said the buildings in the district weren't designed to have "prison-type setups," where you have limited access points. Doing the trial run at Hawthorne, he said, allows the district to determine the best way to utilize them.
"We are trying to work with the security and see how well it works to make sure the kids are in a good, safe environment."
Hawthorne office staff say even the kids are in tune with the procedure, instructing their parents and visitors to "push the button" to gain entry.
Ridgway said the intercom systems are the result of the district's desire to upgrade security, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. In addition to directives from the School Board, community input was sought and parent input was heard regarding ways to upgrade the safety in the district. Meetings were also held departmentally within the school. The Board of Education approved and awarded Loyd's Lock Co. in Mexico, the contract for the installation of the system.
"We actually had three different companies that we contacted that basically have the same types of systems. The biggest difference between them was Loyd's ability to service the system when needed," Ridgway said. The cost of each system is in the $3,000 range, and may vary, depending on what they have to do and how many systems are needed at each site.
Ridgway said the district has yet to decide the total effectiveness of the system at all three elementary schools, the middle and high school – which will likely need more than one buzz-entry system due to campus size and the number of access doors. The overall effort by the district, he said, is to give parents, staff and students peace of mind.
Aside from the buzzer-entry system at Hawthorne, there are other cameras throughout all the schools that are set up to film any acts of violence or disturbances (such as fights, graffiti and break-ins). School Resource Officers are also visible at all of the buildings.
Will this buzz-entry system make Mexico School District safer?
Page 2 of 2 - "It makes us more aware. If we are more aware, we're going to be safer," Ridgway said.
"Being able to record and stop someone from entering the building, harming someone or from running away with a child, allows us to address several needs. And, it's smart to do. We now have staff and kids watching for the bad guy, and the bad guy will know he's being watched – that alone, makes it worth $3,000."