Open Door Policy

Securing all doors a priority for the West Bend High Schools

By Dakota Gunnare, Current Staff

Do you feel safe and secure in the West Bend High Schools?

Recent surveys have posed this question to WBHS students. This, along with announcements reminding students and staff to secure all doors, suggests a growing consciousness around the security of the building. Students are left with questions of whether the high schools’ building is a safe place to be. There are concerns about infrastructure problems and student behavior in the building that make the doors more likely to remain open.

“One of the big things right now is making sure the exterior of our building is as secure as it can be,” said Dave Ross, the district’s facilities director. “It’s a delicate balance between making sure it’s secure and not making the place feel like a prison.”

Some students, staff and community members have a growing interest in problems with the building’s door security and suggest that they need to be fixed with haste.

“I’ve been (to the high school) and found (the doors) completely open, basically unwatched,” said school board member John Donaldson, who clarified that he was speaking only as a concerned parent.

The main entrances at WBHS have some physical problems. Due to the air pressure of the building, the doors often stay open when someone exits the schools, unless they ensure the door shuts behind them.

“This building was built in 1970, and there are a number of issues because we have things going on in numerous parts of the building but we really can’t segregate (those parts),” Ross said. “There’s an inability to secure certain parts of the building. A lot of the doors in this building are pretty old. We’re replacing all the doors in both the East and West main entrances because they just don’t close properly or latch properly.”

It may appear as though a facility issue should be an easy fix, however, replacing each door is very costly. Ross states that the sheer cost is the largest obstacle in securing the doors.

“There are, just off the top of my head, 152 doors,” Ross said. “That’s a lot of doors. Each one of those entryways to replace it is about $7,000.”

Despite the obstacles making the security of the building difficult, the school district is determined to fix many of the physical issues faced by WBHS.

“Many of the doors in the high school buildings are older and need to be replaced,” said Jennifer Wimmer, the district’s superintendent. “We are doing this through a rolling plan of completing several replacements each year, including some this summer. This plan fits within our capital improvements budget which must cover all the buildings in the district. We are also examining how to improve air balancing within the building which can prevent some doors from closing on their own.”

We’re replacing all the doors in both the East and West main entrances because they just don’t close properly or latch properly.”

Dave Ross, director of facilities

However, community members have cited more issues with door security than the physical doors themselves. The root of the door security issue may lie within the building rather than on its surface.

Donaldson reports hearing of instances where students have let other students into the building. He also notes the lack of monitoring of the entrances during the day as being problematic.

“The biggest thing that we have to do is address behavior,” Ross said. “Whether it’s adults in the building about making sure the doors are locked but it’s also about students, letting other students in and propping doors open. The strange thing about that is it’s a zero-cost item as opposed to, as I said, $7,000. But that doesn’t happen overnight. Changing behavior is a difficult thing to do.”

In recent announcements at WBHS, students have been reminded to ensure the door closes behind them. This type of student involvement may be the key to solving the building’s security issues.

“People always play a role in everything that goes on around here,” Ross said. “If people would check and make sure the doors close behind them when they go out, just like they do at home, (it would help). But people don’t do that. There are just a lot of behavioral things.”

District administration plans to respond to these issues as well.

“We have added monitors on every door in the building,” Wimmer said. “A notification is sent to someone in the building if a door is open for a longer amount of time than is necessary for opening and closing. If the staff member gets the notification they must check the door immediately. Finally, we are going to continue to educate building users, including staff, students, and visitors, about the importance of promptly closing doors, pushing doors closed if necessary, and not propping doors open for any reason.”

Teachers at the high school report that they were reminded about the importance of closing entrance doors at a recent staff meeting.

These issues leave students and community members wondering what potential threats could arise.

“You have no idea who’s coming into the school,” Donaldson said.

This is the main potential consequence of not being able to secure the doors of the building. If the school can’t monitor who is entering WBHS, it could be anyone, with any motive.

“You see the state of the world,” Donaldson said. “I’m not gonna sugarcoat it and say there’s not a danger because there always is. I think when people get complacent and think, ‘Oh, that’s not going to happen in my community,’ that’s when things actually happen.”

Donaldson says that concerned students and community members should organize a way to report security breaches and contact the school and district with their concerns.

(Image: A staged demonstration of how doors are often left ajar at the West Bend High Schools. Photo by Dakota Gunnare, Current Staff.)

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