Work nearly finished to up security at five Hannibal schools

Five Hannibal schools will welcome students back in less than a week with upgrades to the entrances of buildings, enhancing the security of the school buildings.

The Hannibal Public School District has worked over the summer to improve the entrances at Hannibal High School, Hannibal Middle School, Oakwood Elementary School, Veterans Elementary School, and Eugene Field Elementary School. Most of the projects are nearing completion and should be ready by the first day of school on Aug. 17. All the upgrades will build on the existing security protocols. All of the schools currently employ a buzzer system to let office staff screen visitors to the school before unlocking the front doors.

“This is and was priority for the district to add an additional layer of security to our building entry format. The safety of our students, faculty, staff and patrons is the most fiduciary of all of the responsibilities we have and adding that additional layer of security supports that mission,” said district Business Manager Rich Stilley.

The upgrades at the five schools will match the types of entrances already in place at Stowell Elementary, Mark Twain Elementary, and the Early Childhood Center — the district’s newest buildings. Reconfigured entrances will route visitors through the office at each respective building to eliminate wandering in case a visitor is unfamiliar with the building.

Perhaps the biggest change will be at Hannibal High School.

Currently, visitors enter through a door on the back (east) side of the building. With the changes, visitors will be routed through the front doors of the building facing McMasters Ave. (west side). Visitor parking has been relocated to near the auditorium. Signage will guide visitors to the new entrance.

“Once we get people used to it, it will be better. Right now, we’ve got people coming in the back door. We tell people to go straight to the office, but people either don’t know where they’re going or don’t make it there. This way, they have to go through the office before they go in the rest of the building,” said HHS Principal Ted Sampson.

Visitors will enter through the front doors and into the office. A second set of interior doors will soon be added beyond the officer entrance, but will be locked from the outside. The doors will function as exit-only doors during the day for use as a fire exit.

The doors will still be open during the early morning for students to enter for breakfast, but will lock around 7:45 a.m. when classes begin. The buzzer and camera are already in place at the high school’s new main entrance. Sampson said district personnel have been in contact with the Hannibal Police Department regarding the changes to entrances.

“Our biggest responsibility, and our most important, is to produce an environment that’s safe for students and staff and we feel like this is a great step in that direction,” Sampson said.

The handicap-accessible entrance will remain at the rear of the building.

According to Stilley, the total cost of the upgrades will approach $35,000.

“The community of Hannibal has been very supportive of our safety programs and I know they will continue to be as we move forward with some final construction this fall,” Stilley said.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .