Safety upgrades at Westside Community Schools

Published: Sep. 21, 2016 at 10:47 PM CDT
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Next week, Westside Community Schools will begin moving dirt from one school construction site to another. The move is expected to save the district $140,000. It’s just one aspect of getting the most bang-for-your-buck out of the $80-million bond.

Recently, WOWT 6 News toured one of the upgraded facilities to get an idea of new safety measures in place.

“One mile – that is so far,” said one elementary teacher.

This fall, students at Oakdale elementary moved to a different school a mile-and-a-half away.

Their new school at 108th & Grover is really an old Westside middle school that changed into a community center of sorts over the years – and is now back to being a school again.

It’s a temporary stop until the old Oakdale is knocked down – and a new one goes in its place.

Security is a key component to the plan.

There are things we see – like outfitting all school entrances with a camera and buzzer – and another set of doors to separate the visitor from the children.

Some concerns aren’t as obvious.

“Once this tree gets taller kids will have access to the rooftop,” said Omaha police Sgt Erin Payne, who works with five school districts in the metro on best practices when it comes to keeping kids safe at school.

She stresses – every school has its own challenges based on design and location. “That’s why it’s so important for school districts to look at their individual schools and plan their emergency operation plans according to that particular school and the location – and not necessarily cookie cutter approach all their emergency plans.”

Like security anywhere, schools are no different.

There are many features staff and law enforcement keep private.

One thing you’ll notice in the new schools however are the numbers -- a labeling system for classrooms and entrances first responders can easily identify.

“Instead of saying the emergency is in Mrs. Smith’s room, they’d say the emergency is in door number 3 or classroom 10,” explained Sgt Payne. “Those types of extra eyes from a first responder really helps enhance security in a school building.”

Even the temporary school needed upgrades. After all, once Oakdale students move into their new $14.5-million home in 2018, students from Swanson Elementary will come here to the old middle school while their building is dismantled and rebuilt.

Sunset Hills students will get a new building, too.

But their school will be built next to the old one – so they’ll be able to watch the progress from the classroom.

The three new schools will also incorporate best practices for the bathrooms. They will be S shaped….meaning they will be private, but won’t have a typical door.

Experts say the design can cut down on bullying.

Taxpayers can follow the progress of the