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LE MARS -- Three elementary schools in the Le Mars Community School District will have controlled access during school hours starting next fall to improve school security.
However, permanent walls at Kluckhohn Elementary will have to wait.
LCS Board of Education gave its approval Monday to installing a controlled access system at each of the elementary buildings, Clark, Franklin and Kluckhohn.
The controlled access system allows a person in the school building to "buzz in" those at the locked door, after seeing the individual through a security camera.
Cost of installing controlled access at the front doors of the three elementary schools is estimated at $4,500 for each building.
Earlier this year, the board had requested the cost estimates on three security priorities -- surveillance systems outside all district buildings; controlled access for all district buildings; and classroom walls and doors at Kluckhohn Elementary.
That followed a visit to the school board from parents, with a number from Kluckhohn Elementary, at a January board meeting.
Their concerns stemmed from the December incident in Newtown, Conn., where 27 people, including 20 children, were killed by a gunman at an elementary school.
Kluckhohn, which was built in the 1970s, was based on an open classroom concept, with no walls dividing classrooms and the circular hallway.
The decision to install the controlled access systems at the elementary buildings came after Superintendent Dr. Todd Wendt presented information to the board about the cost of corridor and classroom dividing walls at Kluckhohn Elementary.
According to information from Jim Ruble, architect with Cannon Moss Brygger Architects, the cost of installing corridor walls at Kluckhohn range from $80,000 to $100,000.
Classroom dividing walls are estimated at $75,000 to $80,000.
In addition, the cost for new shelving, storage cabinets and coats racks, within the classrooms is estimated at $100,000 to $110,000.
The total estimated project could cost from $255,000 to $290,000, Wendt told the board.
"There are some potential issues with the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system. With it (Kluckhohn's structure) open, all the ventilation is in the classrooms, and that takes care of the hallways now," Wendt said. "Once they starting cutting into that stuff, you don't know for sure what they'll find."
Wendt said he verified with the architect that ventilation vents would be put in the hallway ceilings.
Wendt indicated the district's 10-year plan includes putting walls up in the round portion of Kluckhohn Elementary, in the latter half of the plan.
"The cost estimate in that plan, $200,000, is low based on the numbers we have received now," Wendt said.
Board member Patrick Murphy said the district's 2013-14 budget can't afford to spend $290,000 for walls at Kluckhohn.
"We've known for a long time Kluckhohn has problems; we've had criticisms and concerns from parents and teachers," Murphy said.
Walls need to be constructed, he continued.
"We need to spend that money, and we need to do it in the next few years," Murphy said.
Board member Mark Stelzer said he understood the concern about the HVAC system.
"As I remember, the middle school used to be more open, then we closed it and more walls were built. We had people freezing and people cooking. It took a long time to get that worked out," Stelzer said. "We know that can of worms will be there. It's not a surprise. We need to address that at the same time."
Board member Fred Zenk asked how long it would take to complete the walls at Kluckhohn.
Wendt said it would have to be a summer construction plan.
"I think it would be hard to get on the schedule for this summer," Wendt said. "The second thing, I don't know where you'd come up with $290,000 because you have already obligated a lot of money for this summer."
Stelzer said he felt the buzz-in system addresses most of the security issues that people have brought up to the board.
Wendt said, of the three priorities, the only one doable this summer would be the controlled access system.
"I think it's worthwhile at all three elementary buildings," Wendt said.
He said he'd hesitate to install it at the district's Trades & Industries building due to other open accesses in that building.
He also said he was not sure it would be workable at the high school due to the number of students coming and going during the day, but could be used at the middle school.
Stelzer said he was concerned about how much could be controlled because the middle school and high school are connected in so many ways.
Wendt said a controlled access at the middle school front door would be beneficial.
"We're still going to have to work on procedures for buzzing people in," said board member Scott Kommes.
Story provided by: www.lemarssentinel.com