Nation-wide security concerns prompt RBHS entrance revision


BUZZ IN: Sophomore George Matthes returns from his Alternate Unassigned Time (AUT) and rings into the north commons intercom Sept. 11.

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In just 18 years, more people in the United States have been killed or injured by school shootings than in the entire 20th Century, according to an April 2018 report by Science Daily. Responding to school gun violence, Columbia Public Schools (CPS) established hardening entrances as a top priority for the 2019-20 school year.
Though details aren’t complete, RBHS Principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad said the Board and CPS’ insurance company, Naught-Naught Insurance Agency, aim to rework RBHS to a single entry school.
“Fear is driving a lot of our decisions,” Rukstad said. “When terrible stuff happens to kids, or anyone, everyone’s pretty quick to talk about how to make our schools safer.”
The proposed changes will start at Aslin Administration Building in a few months, Rukstad said, and proceed to RBHS and Hickman High School (HHS) in the summer. Director of Security John White said Aslin will reconfigure the location of the help desk into a single point of entry to buzz guests in.
The reason the Board chose RBHS and HHS first for the program is because members believe those schools will be the most difficult to reconfigure. Newer schools were built with gun violence in mind; therefore, they have a single entry, White said.
“I think they wanted to tackle the hardest ones first [to] make the others a little bit easier [as] we learn through that process,” Rukstad said. “And also to send a message that it’s really a priority.”
RBHS has two main student entrances, North and South, with a third in the east for those riding busses. If RBHS adopted a single entry design, Dr. Rukstad said the north entrance is the only feasible option to accommodate students while the south entrance would be staff only.
“Logistically, with all the students we have, it really cannot be south; we don’t have enough parking in the south to have all the students in the south,” Rukstad said. “Plus students have to go in an out of the north doors to get to the [Columbia Area] Career Center. So if we are going to make a single entry system, the most logical place is in the north.”
Four years ago CPS’ insurance company proposed the single entry idea. As a compromise, the Board chose, instead, to allow students who enter after 8:55a.m. to buzz into the Attendance Office where RBHS staff monitors entry on an individual basis. The issue of school safety, however, escalated since then, so Dr. Rukstad said the Board is motivated to be consistent with the insurance company’s recommendations.
“The idea is that you don’t let a guest just open a door and come into a hallway. That’s your hallway; guests should not be in your hallway,” White said. “Other people who are not students, staff or parents should not have access to the hallways.”
Another plan to harden entrance security is to position a staff member at the entrance behind a glass wall to make direct eye contact with everyone who enters, not just from a small monitor.
“Wherever there is a point of entry to the building, we want a human being there,” Assistant Principal Dr. Tim Baker said. “Now we don’t know the [finances] yet, but we have got to make it work.”
Feasibility, White said, is the main issue. Built in 1973, RBHS’ general layout and parking lots weren’t built for a single entry.
“This is totally preliminary. We have no [finalized] plan,” White said. “We had an architect come out and just look at the building to come up with a plan on how we could make this a single entry. The architect has so many ideas; we’ll have to see which one is (a) feasible and (b) fiscally responsible.”
Senior Don Osborn doesn’t believe the updates will make a significant impact on the chances of shooting and said it will only be an inconvenience to students and staff.
“It’s silly because if a person wants to shoot up a school, they’ll do it anyway. That’s the thing,” said Osborn. “I think it will be a severe inconvenience to students because we will be put down to one parking lot. Plus, there are a lot of students who park in south parking lot because it is closer to sports, [and] traffic is going to be terrible.”
White hopes students don’t read too much into the proposed changes because they are still in the planning stages and nothing is completely confirmed.
“Everything keeps changing,” White said. “We are trying to figure out the safest and best way to do that and still be good stewards to the taxpayers money.”