School adds security updates to building over summer

By Semira Beraki, Hawkeye staff

During the summer, MTHS implemented additional security measures to ensure the safety of the staff and students at the school. These measures were added at the direction of the Edmonds School District (ESD) in light of the various situations—specifically, the shooting threats—that impacted the school’s sense of safety in the previous school year. The school’s administration team has been working with not only the ESD, but also the Mountlake Terrace Police Department (MLTPD) to enact and ensure these measures are emplaced this school year.

One of the notable additions to security is the installation of up to 50 new cameras, mostly placed around hallways and exterior areas of the school. The school already has some existing cameras around the outside, with these new cameras adding on to them. In addition, a few of these cameras will also be placed in the gym and not within classrooms, still ensuring a sense of privacy to students and staff. Principal Greg Schellenberg reassures that these cameras won’t be used as a “Big Brother”-type situation.

The big picture, which is safety, seems to be pretty paramount now from what I sense, but [these security measures] will not overlook the personal security of students.”

— Greg Schellenberg

“I can think of five or six incidents last year that [these cameras] would have helped with… maybe show that something didn’t happen or figure out which side of the story is accurate. It will be helpful in that sense… and hopefully with the knowledge that [the cameras] are there will be a deterrent [for misbehavior]. That’s why they’re in car washes, malls, coffee shops and et cetera, just to be able to watch what’s happening,” Schellenberg said.

MTHS will be the first school in the ESD to have security cameras set up by the district’s decision, according to Schellenberg. The cameras, following a period of testing, are slated to be in full operation later in September.

In addition to security cameras, electronic locks have been added to six of the school’s exterior doors. These sensors are placed at the main entrance, the side door to the music hallway, the kitchen and custodial office door near the loading dock, the HUB doors and the small gym entrance near the locker rooms. The new electronically-controlled doors can be programmed to unlock at certain times of day and can also be unlocked by an electronic key. These readers will make the standardized metal keys, originally used to open the doors, obsolete.

“For security purposes, [these doors] are going to make it so that we’re limiting our entrances into the building…. it probably makes it less easy [for students] in many cases, where if you’re a student that was able to find a door opened last year,” Schellenberg said.

Although having this system would be less convenient for students, it increases security and reduces the possibility of a door being propped open and left, according to Schellenberg.

Along with the new security doors, a major addition to the school is the presence of a School Resource Officer (SRO), who will be stationed near the front of the school. The SRO is a shared position between the police department and the school, promoting a sense of security in the school environment through the presence of law enforcement. Being an SRO means not only acting as a security officer, but “bringing a positive bridge to the community here at the school and to the outside community” and creating a comforting environment to students and staff, according to Schellenberg. While MTHS is one of the last schools in the district to install an SRO, the position is not new to the school. Approximately seven years ago, an SRO was appointed to the school; however, the position was eventually removed due to budget reasons. The new appointed SRO for this school year is MLTPD officer Kyle O’Hagan.

Head secretary Cathy Fiorillo is also excited to have an SRO back at Terrace because she views the presence as a “big benefit” to the students and staff of the school. School administration hopes to give O’Hagan some free time to introduce himself and get to know the students to form a good rapport with the community.

According to Schellenberg, the feedback he has received about these new security measures has been mainly positive, though some students expressed a concern that a heavy emphasis on security could be perceived as threatening. Staff have expressed a desire for additional security as well as improved communication, especially about emergency situations. They believe these new security additions will help alleviate those concerns.

“The big picture, which is safety, seems to be pretty paramount now from what I sense, but [these security measures] will not overlook the personal security of students,” Schellenberg said.

Ultimately, Schellenberg and the ESD seek to ensure students will feel comfortable at the school.

See the accompanying infographic in the widget above on pages 8-9, which pairs information from this article with a map of MTHS. The security changes made to the building are highlighted in yellow.