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Joplin High School elevates building safety

JOPLIN, Mo. — Safe at school – it’s a goal in Joplin as school leaders get ready for the start of classes. At the high school, that means a new way to get in the building.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve safety throughout the district,” said Jim Hounschell, Joplin Schools Director of Safety & Security.

That could be anything from adding more security cameras to overhauling fire drills.

“Whether it’s buildings and grounds or procedures or whatever, that need improvement and this was one of those areas that we identified as needing some improvement,” he adds.

The safety audit focused on how you gain access to Joplin High School. Classrooms were safe behind a secure entrance on the second floor. But that hadn’t been the case for the front desk and administration… something that’s changing.

“We’ve just kind of expanded the footprint of this safety zone because as we’ve lived in the building now for a few years, and changes have been made across the district. And kind of our culture and the change in our thought process,” said Dave Pettit, Joplin Schools Facilities Director.

There’s now a new set of locked doors before anyone can talk to the front desk or administration. It’s a chance to double-check who’s entering the building before they’re face to face with staff.

“This allows them an extra point of making sure people get to the right area, but also gives them that secure area that should there be an issue that they can hold that person there to be dealt with in another manner,” said Pettit.

It’s the newest layer of protection at JHS, building on what’s already there, like hundreds of security cameras.

“All that will remain the same. Our visitor-aware system will still be in place still be set up so there will still be those checkpoints in place as well. It’s just going to be the physical access to that area will now change,” Pettit added.

The project cost the school district about $10,000 and was installed during the summer break.