HARTSIG: Renovations are keeping students safer

With the recent senseless tragedy in Florida and those that have come before it, I wanted to take a moment and thank the Dowagiac community on behalf of Dowagiac Union Schools for their support of our recent bond. If you were able to attend any of the public forums or read the literature distributed by the district, prior to the passage of the bond, you are aware that safety and security was the main emphasis.

In June 2017, we began the renovations of Dowagiac Union High School which include many safety and security features. We installed a new camera system that can be accessed remotely by administration and law enforcement officials for real time access in case of an emergency. Other safety features include new classroom doors, which can be locked from both the outside and inside of the classrooms.

The office areas will be moved forward this summer so community members entering the high school will have to enter the office first before accessing any other part of the building.

Renovations of heating and cooling systems will allow for a controlled climate so windows and doors will not be open during the day to control the temperature. We relocated the student entry to a single set of doors to manage the flow of students into the building and adjusted where buses drop off students to eliminate crossing any type of car traffic.

The elementary school renovations are slated to begin this coming summer and will also include safety and security upgrades like the high school. New camera systems will be installed with remote access. The entrances for the buildings are being reconfigured so that visitors will have to enter the offices before being released to other parts of the building.

New heating and cooling systems will allow us to keep our windows and doors closed, eliminating any unsecured points of entry. New public intercom systems will be installed for better communication between classrooms and the main office.

While we appreciate the support of the community for the opportunity to increase student safety, we know these upgrades are months away from completion. With that in mind, we have taken steps to ensure student and staff safety now. All of our elementary schools’ entrances are locked and will remain locked until the end of the school year.

I know this has caused some delays for parents trying to enter the building, but we ask for your patience; as our schools were built mostly in the 1950s are not designed for this level of security.

We do not allow backpacks  in classrooms in either the high school or middle school. We have a district-dedicated School Resource Officer, and we have an open line of communication with local police to address any issues that may arise.

While no amount of practice can ever simulate a real-life tragic event, we conduct regular lock down, fire and tornado drills and report the results of these drills to the State of Michigan.

With all of that being said, as Superintendent, parent of three children attending Dowagiac Union Schools, and spouse of an elementary teacher, the safety and well-being of our students and staff is extremely important to me both professionally and personally.

I again want to thank the community for giving Dowagiac Schools the resources to allow our students and staff to have updated, safe and secure school buildings in which to educate our future generations. Thank you.

Paul Hartsig is Superintendent of Dowagiac Union schools.

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