Four Wichita schools are testing new security systems that scan visitors’ driver’s licenses and check them against a nationwide database of sex offenders.
The new measures went into effect at four schools Monday – Southeast High, Christa McAuliffe Academy, Curtis Middle School and Caldwell Elementary, officials said.
Based on feedback from parents and other school visitors from today through May 16, the district plans to select a system and begin using it districtwide this fall.
“As we strive to create an even more secure learning environment for our students, it is our hope that you will find this a welcome enhancement,” the district said in an explanation posted on its website Monday.
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Any visitor entering the school during bell hours – 7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. at Southeast, Curtis and McAuliffe; 8:50 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. at Caldwell – will be required to sign in using the system. This includes parents or other visitors who volunteer in classrooms, eat lunch with students or drive for a field trip, or vendors who have access to the building’s hallways.
A school employee will swipe the visitor’s driver’s license or government-issued ID card into the system, which will match the name and birth date against national sexual offender databases. Should a non-authorized visitor attempt to enter the school, school leaders and district safety personnel will be alerted.
“This will occur in a matter of seconds,” the news release said. The system also will issue a date-specific visitor ID badge to wear in school.
Visitors without a driver’s license or other ID will have their information hand-entered into the system, officials said.
Visitors will be required to check in each time they visit. Frequent visitors may request a key-fob ID to make check-in scanning easier.
Adults picking up children who are sick or have an appointment will not have to be scanned during the testing period, officials said. Neither will district employees with an official USD 259 ID badge. That could change when the district implements the system in all 91 school buildings this fall, officials said.
Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for Wichita public schools, said the district does not yet know how much the system would cost to implement.
“Once we select a provider, we will negotiate a total cost,” she said.
Any expenditure would be in addition to a $3 million security upgrade Wichita school leaders approved last May, which paid for new cameras and other surveillance equipment, controlled-access doors, buzz-in entrances and a centralized dispatch system.
Wendy Johnson, director of communications and marketing for the district, said a protocol is being tested during this period to deal with instances where a visitor’s name appears on the sex offender registry. First, officials will ensure that the person is not being confused with someone else who may share the same name and birth date, she said.
“If verification is made that the person is cleared, then they will receive their visitors badge and proceed on with their business,” Johnson said. “If the visitor is indeed on the registered offender list, they will be addressed privately and appropriately.”
Should a student’s parent be a registered sex offender, “there are procedures already in place,” Johnson added. Anyone who registers to be a volunteer, tutor or mentor in schools undergoes a comprehensive background check that includes screening for sex crimes and other criminal offenses, she said.
“We will consider whether other types of screens are possible and/or appropriate as we evaluate this pilot, including potential cost implications,” Johnson said. Both systems being tested do not assess a per-scan cost for sex offender screening, she said.
Officials said visitor information from the new license-scan system will not be sold or otherwise made available to any third party.
“Both systems being piloted will maintain all records on their system, and authorized district administrators have access to data to prepare summary reports, including (the) number of volunteer hours served in our schools,” the news release said.
For more information about the systems being tested, visit the district’s website, www.usd259.org.