Classroom security systems installed

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Submitted photo

(L to R) Dawson County High School Vice Principal John Larsen, Glendive Masons representatives Paul Ryan and Sandy Stinnett, and Glendive Superintendent of Schools Stephen Schreibeis demonstrate the Barracuda Intruder Defense System recently installed in a classroom. The bars are only placed in the doorways when they are needed and can be easily removed by anyone, including the district’s youngest students, if necessary, according to Schreibeis.

Several months after the Glendive School District received a large donation for the purchase and installation of door systems designed to keep classrooms secure in the event of an intruder, the systems have been installed.

The installation was on hold while school district officials and area fire officials discussed how the systems would impact safety related to fire codes.

On June 11, the Glendive Unified School Board accepted a donation from the local Masonic Lodge for the installation of Barracuda Intruder Defense Systems in three of the districts schools. Jefferson Elementary School already had a classroom door security system in place. The lodge also planned to donate the defense system to the Wibaux school district. The cost of the project was estimated to be $10,000.  

The systems operate by placing a bar lock on inward and outward swinging doors, preventing entrance to a classroom in event of an intruder or active shooter on campus. The devices are not permanently installed on the doors, and can be stored separate from them until they are needed.

In July, school officials received word that the blocking of doors with the Barracuda systems is in violation of Montana Fire Code. The project was put on hold until recently, according to Glendive Superintendent of Schools Stephen Schreibeis.

While no changes were made to the project, the two entities found some middle ground.

“It was mostly just conversations. When you have different entities focused on different things, like the fire department, they have to make sure they are doing their jobs and we have to make sure we are doing ours,” Schreibeis said in an interview last week.

He stressed that school officials have to make sure they have measures in place to keep students safe during any type of emergency which is why they hold fire, active shooter and earthquake drills.

When the issue arose concerning the school’s active shooter drills creating situations that went against fire codes, Schreibeis wasn’t surprised. He said he has seen the same thing unfold in other school districts he has worked in.

Actions taken during intruder drills “don’t always mesh” with fire codes, he noted, but the school must have the best safety measures in place as possible.

“It’s our job to make sure students are safe in every single situation,” he said.

The Barracuda systems installed on classroom doors are still a fire code violation, that has not changed. However, fire officials have agreed that they will write the violation up in their reports, but they will not hold the district responsible for the violation.

Schreibeis noted that in the catastrophic situation that a fire broke out during an active shooter event, school officials would have to make some hard decisions. The school will develop protocol for that unlikely situation and school officials will continue to look for ways to make the school safer in every aspect, he noted.

As for now, Schreibeis is pleased to have the additional level of security in the schools.

He added that he greatly appreciates the Masons’ donation.

“You know what people’s focus is by how they spend their money. To be able to have people in the community who support this kind of thing in our school, to keep our students safe, it is wonderful,” he added.

Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at rreditor@rangerreview.com.

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