Archived Story

St. John’s enhanced security

Published 9:49pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 

St. John’s Childcare and Learning Center, 603 McCleary St., beefed up security, but not in response to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of 20 children and six adult staff members in Newtown, Conn.

St. John’s security system was in the works for a year and a half before Haas Systems installed it in November, according to Jeff Weber, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in front of the former school.

St. John’s offers daycare, latchkey and preschool programs to 92 families.

Grades K-8 closed two years ago.

There are 25 to 30 children in the building at any one time.

Preschool is for 4-year-olds, Noah’s Ark for 3-year-olds. Monday, Wednesday and Friday is for one class of 3-year-olds and Tuesday and Thursday for the other class of 3-year-olds. Four-year-olds come afternoons five days a week.

Latchkey before and after school buses 30 to 40 youngsters as old as 12, so more than 100 kids are served.

“Parents were starting to ask for (a secure door), so we set things in motion,” Weber said. “If Jan (Dohm) wasn’t sitting in the office, people could walk into the building. So we decided to have a door where if we didn’t know them, they couldn’t get into the building. People are leery of strangers.”

Each family is issued key cards coded for the mother and father to swipe for admittance with individual identification numbers. There is an intercom to communicate with visitors before letting them inside.

“It’s kind of like on ‘Seinfeld,’ where they hit the button to let someone in. That’s pretty much the system we’ve got here,” Weber said.

When the tragedy happened in Connecticut, “Any number of parents said, ‘We’re so glad you got this,’ ” Weber said. “In fact, the day they installed it, it took most of the day, and parents coming in and out were happy.’ ”

“Nobody’s complained about the hassle,” Dohm said.

Cards

can be programmed so the school is only accessible during daytime operation hours. “Nobody’s card works overnight except mine and Jan’s,” Weber said. “Parents’ cards are only open when we’re open.”

St. John’s isn’t alone in securing its facility. Apostolic Lighthouse Christian Child Care Center of Dowagiac and Cassopolis has similar systems.

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