Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A two-month security upgrade project is nearing completion in the Vidor Independent School District.
In the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn., school districts across the United States re-examined security plans. Local school districts were no different.
Dr. Jay Killgo, superintendent of the Vidor Independent School District, and the Vidor ISD Board of Trustees opted to be pro-active and approved significant security upgrades to all campuses within the district. In an interview with Killgo in February, he stated district patrons would see results quickly.
“We’re about 90 percent done with all of the work on this project,” Killgo said. “The only campus we are still working on improving security at is Vidor High School, and we won’t be able to complete that until the summer.”
Along with the four-man Vidor Independent School District Police Department, off-duty police officers are stationed at each campus in the district every day. Pine Forest, Oak Forest and Vidor Elementary schools, as well as Vidor Middle School, have new six-foot fencing installed around each campus and new foyers for a secure check-in station.
“Each of these campuses now has a single entrance foyer, so, when someone comes into the school, they have to walk up to the window and be acknowledged before being admitted into the school,” Killgo explained. “It’s just an added precaution to protect our students and our employees.”
Another change, which met with a bit of resistance from parents at first, discouraged parents from walking their children to class in the mornings at the district elementary schools.
With the new single entrance foyers, parents must now either check in daily with the front office to walk the children to class or else say their good-byes at the front door or vehicle.
Work is still continuing at Vidor High School and is not expected to be completed until summer.
“The high school is having the most work done because it has so many open areas of access,” Killgo stated. “We are in the process of installing electronic gates at the entrance off Melrose Street. We have a security booth at the entrance by the gymnasium right now and there is always a security person there to check vehicles as the come onto the campus. That will remain a permanent feature, but we might move it to the entrance by the football stadium once the electronic gates are operational.”
The front of the school, located on Orange Street, has two entrances which are separated by a large trophy case. The case now sits empty and will soon become an entrance checkpoint.
“We are going to turn that old trophy case into an office and make it a checkpoint. You will have to be buzzed into the campus by the person at the checkpoint,” Killgo said. “But we are going to have to do some construction to build that office, so we have to wait until summer when school is out.”
Killgo said the project, expected to cost the district approximately $250,000 or more when finished, has progressed as quickly as expected, and, best of all for district tax-payers, has not required dipping into the district’s fund balance.
“We’ve been able to pull from unused budgets thus far, but we will have to look at things before we start budget talks for next school year,” he added.
At issue for the district is the decision of continuing to use off-duty police personnel at each campus on a daily basis or whether to hire new police officers for the school district’s police department and, if hiring is the option, how many officers to hire.
“Those are all questions the school board and I will have to look at very soon,” Killgo stated.