By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
BARRY, Ill. -- Even though money's tight in the Western School District, spending some now may save bigger maintenance bills later.
Some health/life safety projects under consideration also will boost school security, a key concern following the deadly school shooting last week in Connecticut.
Plans call for rekeying district buildings in Barry and Kinderhook, replacing the interior doors leading into the high school at Barry, replacing some exterior doors at both buildings and adding camera-monitored vestibule areas at the three Barry entrances.
Board members debated the projects in recent weeks, reviewing bids and looking at ways to trim costs, possibly by postponing the expense to replace interior classroom doors at Kinderhook.
"Basically what took place between our building committee meeting and the regular meeting was Newtown," committee member Kris Koeller said. "It was just a game changer, as it should be. We definitely are looking at everything a little closer."
The new classroom doors suddenly became more important.
"Classroom doors that close, lock and you can't just push them open became a high priority," Koeller said.
The doors all are original to the Kinderhook building, and some no longer work properly which poses a security concern.
Board member Tera Hart asked at Wednesday's meeting whether all the work, especially the vestibules at Barry, was necessary. Kinderhook already has a vestibule area. That area's interior doors will be replaced, and security cameras will be added.
The district still could add security cameras at the Barry entrances without the added expense of the vestibules, designed to limit access to the building but not leave people standing out in the rain or snow.
"Is it a necessity?" Hart said. "I understand what you're saying. We do need to maintain stuff, but this is adding. Is it a necessary addition? Are there alternate ways to do this?"
The district has other maintenance needs, including a new boiler, to consider, Hart said.
The biggest concern is with safety in the school.
"What it boils down to in these situations is you are simply trying to do whatever you can to buy time. You're buying seconds, trying to buy a minute, and that can be a big, big difference maker," Koeller said. "You might not be able to prevent somebody from getting through a buzzed-in vestibule, but you create safety and you create time if a situation would arise."
Superintendent Carol Frericks said the upgraded security plans were developed with help from the Illinois State Police. More districts statewide are upgrading security measures and locking doors.
The board expects to take action on the proposal in January.
"We wanted to get a chance to have updated information on what the cost is of the total project," Koeller said. "In the end, we're going to end up taking care of these doors."
Beyond security alone, investing in some building work now offers preventative maintenance so "everything doesn't need to be replaced" at one time, Koeller said. "It's no different than farming. You go through a rough stretch and think you're saving money by not replacing equipment, then everything needs replaced and the repair bill is out of control."