BELLE FOURCHE — The Belle Fourche School District is one of the first in West River to add new security upgrades. In the wake of recent school violence that has occurred throughout the country, Greg Boyd, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, said they began the process to strengthen the security of the district before anyone else.
“We have come to the realization that we have to do a better job,” Boyd said at Monday’s Belle Fourche School Board meeting.
The district offices are an example of what will be done in each school building, he added.
At the district administrative offices, visitors must first be “buzzed” in at the first door, and again at the second level before they can actually enter the main building. District personnel will be able to view a video of the offices on a large television screen, and Boyd said there will be another camera showing a panoramic view of outside of building. In time, each school building will have a similar setup.
Secretaries at each of the schools will also have mirrored glass that will make it possible to see out into the hallway, but those in the hallway cannot see not into the office. There will be a safe place in the office with a door that can be locked and will have a manual that includes a list of phone numbers that should be called in case of an emergency.
Boyd said he has been working closely with Belle Fourche Police Chief Rob Hansen to insure the safety of the students and faculty, and he suggested creating “safe” areas that school personnel can go as well.
The high school presents a problem because of its 32 entrances in the school. Boyd is looking at doing several things, including remodeling the main entrance and installing card readers necessary to enter the school with time parameters, such as making it possible to program each entrance to accept the cards at a specific time.
“It’s going to be a process. If any of you (school board members) have an idea, let me know,” he said.
Along with the city, the school district has hired a School Resource Officer, so Belle Fourche Police Officer Katie Allart visits area schools everyday.
Belle Fourche School District Superintendent Steve Willard said that he believes that having a police presence is important, so that the students see they are safe.
“She (Allart) parks her car out front and makes her rounds,” Willard said.
Willard has been in contact with officials at the state, county and city levels hoping to secure grant funds to continue upgrading entrances and install other safety devices.
Willard said that he and Boyd recently met with Hansen to discuss safety issues, and the chief commends the district with what they have gotten done so far.
“We are ahead of a lot of places,” said Willard.
Hansen is also working with his officers, and training them to handle incidents that could impede school safety.
Willard said that “communication is the key” to school safety.
“We are in constant contact with law enforcement and other school districts,” he said.
Hansen has assured Willard that police department can respond to any issue at area schools within five minutes.
“The keys to keeping your building safe is communication with different people, training on how to deal with people and setting up barriers,” Hansen said.
In other school board business, students involved in either the middle or high school Knowledge Bowl teams were introduced and given an opportunity to show off what they have learned because of that experience.
Knowledge Bowl coaches at the high school level are Katie Grave and Louise Readé, and they explained that their team competed against nine other schools. They explained that each student must utilize the facts they have learned, develop self-confidence and be diligent learners. This year, the high school team placed first in all but one contest.
“We teach them to access the information and how to respond to the questions,” said Grave. “We teach them to work as a team.”
The middle school Knowledge Bowl team is made up of 25 students. They practice twice a week, as part of their practice they help others with homework assignments.
“The teamwork is unbelievable,” said middle school coach Joann Stephens.
The middle school team members gave the school board heartfelt thanks for allowing them the privilege of having knowledge bowl teams.