High school enacts new security measures

By James Robinson
Posted 4/17/24


In an effort to increase campus security, Port Townsend High School is now equipped with a two-way video intercom system which school officials say will help control campus access and …

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High school enacts new security measures



In an effort to increase campus security, Port Townsend High School is now equipped with a two-way video intercom system which school officials say will help control campus access and keep students and staff safer.

“While school shootings are extremely rare, they are reported on widely, causing anxiety and fear,” said Linda Rosenbury, superintendent of the Port Townsend School District. “Our students and staff need to feel safe in order to teach and learn. This is only about controlling entry and increasing the screening of people entering the building. This new system allows us to talk to a person who is trying to gain access and screen them more thoroughly.”

Prior to installation, Rosenbury explained, all campus doors were open during the school day, which didn’t allow staff to monitor who was entering the buildings. The new system allows for video monitoring and video intercoms at key access points, locks doors during class and unlocks them during passing periods.

“Following discussions at our February board retreat, we identified this (campus safety and security) as a key focus area for the year,” said Simon Little, Port Townsend High School board member and board director. “My specific responsibility entails reviewing campus security policies and collaborating with the superintendent to implement regular updates aimed at enhancing security measures. Working closely with Dr. Rosenbury, we've been diligently evaluating security protocols and seeking ways to improve safety across our campuses. This initiative aligns well with my involvement in the Facilities-Long Range Committee, where we address long-term planning for the district.”

The system was installed over the February break, faculty and staff were trained, and it went live on March 20.

Rosenbury described the system as ‘very standard’ and similar to systems found at schools across the country.

“Bainbridge Island has a similar campus layout and installed a system like this a couple years ago,” Rosenbury said.

Like Bainbridge, Port Townsend High School has an open, ‘California-style’ campus with multiple buildings and multiple points of entry. Contrast this against Blue Heron Middle School and Salish Coast Elementary, which both have a single point of entry, and the challenges of controlling access during an emergency at the high school become clear.

“Informed by a comprehensive threat assessment report conducted by a security consultant,” Little said, “we've identified areas for improvement, with an initial emphasis on Port Townsend High School due to its unique layout and open campus design. To mitigate security risks associated with multiple detached buildings, we implemented a video intercom system. This system has created a digitized central entry point and provides better monitoring capabilities, enhancing overall safety.”

In addition to providing two-way audio and video monitoring of multiple access points, Rosenbury said the system also allows staff to screen visitors, such as a parent or delivery driver, and grant them access when the doors are locked.


Rosenbury explained that the school has long been able to lock down the doors, “But we haven’t been able to allow access to the building during a lockdown.” 


“Last spring there was a call to Jefferson county dispatch and we were immediately able to lock the doors and secure the perimeter,” Rosenbury said, adding that the call turned out to be a hoax.


In addition to the new technology, Rosenbury said staff received situational awareness training, and learned how to read clues such as attire, body language and tone of voice to help determine if there is a potential threat. Another feature of the system allows the software to be used on many computers, meaning there are now many gatekeepers monitoring the many possible points of entry.


Some students have complained that the locked doors are a hassle, but the hassles have generally come when a student is late to class, can’t get into a building and has to circle back to a door with a camera to get let in by staff.


Staff have key cards, Rosenbury said, and students with limited mobility will be issued key cards that open the doors, along with an elevator key.


“There’s still growing pains,” Rosenbury said. “Students and staff are getting used to it, but overall they’re happy, they’re feeling safer. I sleep better knowing we have more security,” Rosenbury said. “It’s beyond awful to think we’d have to respond to a school shooting. And although extremely rare, the board and I are doing everything we can to prevent it.”


In addition to bolstering the physical security of the campus, Rosenbury and Little said faculty and staff regularly check in with students to ensure they are feeling safe at school.


“The superintendent collects data directly from students to gauge their perception of safety within our schools,” Little said. “Improving this metric remains a continuous focus for us as a board. In summary, our efforts are dedicated to ensuring that our schools are safe, secure and conducive to learning for everyone.”


The system cost $70,000 and was paid for with capital levy funds.


Concurrent with the system launch, school district official released a FAQ page to help students, parents and visitors navigate the changes.


According to the document, video intercoms have been installed at the Commons door by the elevator, the main door by the offices, closest to the auditorium, the front Annex door, the side gym door by the girl’s locker room and the Gael Stuart door.


You can read the complete document here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fb-ezI8WMr_t4f5Vu3YRQCoq9LwuNZXBGhsnaTdXS2s/edit