New visitor check-in system at Alder schools

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(Posted Jan. 17, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

“It’s just another level of safety and security,” said Dr. Misty Swanger, Jonathan Alder Local Schools assistant superintendent.

In a presentation at the Jan. 13 school board meeting, Swanger explained the new visitor check-in system the district is unrolling over the next couple of months.

Anyone who visits any of the district’s school buildings during school hours and plans to enter the buildings beyond the front offices will be required to have their driver’s licensed scanned. The scanner will check for alerts in categories that include the sex offender registry, custody orders and protective orders.

If a person is cleared to enter the building, the system will print a badge with the visitor’s image and the part of the building they are visiting. If an emergency situation arises with a visitor while they are in the front office, the system operator has the ability to send an emergency notification to the building principal and anyone else the district designates.

The district is piloting the system for about six weeks at Plain City Elementary. Then on March 6, secretaries at the other buildings will be trained, and the system will go live in those buildings on March 9.

The cost of the system for the district was $8,500.

Pricy trip
After a long discussion during the business portion of the meeting, the board approved a trip to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, open to high school students and slated for June 7-21, 2021. Any student who wishes to make the trip must cover the $6,000 cost themselves. Fundraisers are planned, and some scholarships will be available. The trip’s cost stirred debate and questions among board members.

“That’s more than the state gives us to educate a student for a year,” said board member Steve Votaw as a point of comparison.

“Six thousand dollars is an exorbitant amount of money,” said newly elected board member Bill McCartney, who asked if anyone polled students ahead of time to see how many would be interested in the trip and if the cost was a deterrent.

A poll was not taken, said Superintendent Gary Chapman, who reported that, so far, 17 students have expressed interest.

Each year, the district offers students the opportunity to take a trip abroad to learn about other cultures. Typically, those trips cost about half what next year’s trip costs, and between 12 and 20 students go on them. This year, the destination is the Galapagos Islands, a province of Ecuador.

Clint Hayes, principal at the high school, said the trips are great educational experiences for students. Board members agreed but wondered about limits.

“I don’t think you have to travel across the world to get cultural exposure,” said Votaw, who likes the idea of such trips but voted against approval of the New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii trip. He also suggested that the board look into the parameters other school district’s set for such trips and consider creating a board policy.

McCartney reiterated his desire to see a survey taken regarding cost as a possible deterrent for students.

The trip was approved 4-1.

Board officers and meeting dates
During the annual organizational portion of the meeting, the board elected Christine Blacka as president for the year and Shannon Foust as vice president.

Committee assignments for the year are as follows:
• board policy–Blacka and Mary Jo Boyd;
• strategic planning–Foust and Votaw;
• insurance–Foust;
• technology–Blacka and McCartney;
• community support coalition–McCartney; and
• Tolles Career & Technical Center representative–Tom Bichsel, former school board member.

The board likely will reconvene its finance committee this spring in anticipation of a levy renewal request in 2021.

The board will continue to meet monthly in 2020, typically on the second Monday of the month in the high school library. Exceptions on days and/or locations include: Feb. 10 at the junior high, April 13 at Monroe Elementary, June 23 (a Tuesday) at the high school, Oct. 12 at Plain City Elementary, and Dec. 14 at Canaan Middle School. All meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

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