08-28-13: Summer facility work focuses on safety improvements
08-28-13: Summer facility work focuses on safety improvements
Posted on 08/28/2013

Making schools a safer place for students and staff has been the focus of a series of facility improvements this summer, ranging from additional security cameras and electronic door access to better campus lighting and more visible school entries.


Students will also return to many schools this fall to find that more than 2,000 outdated computers have been upgraded or replaced with newer, more energy efficient models that have larger display screens and faster operating systems to support rigorous classroom learning requirements.


“The improvements this summer represent our most pressing investments in facilities — the things that just couldn’t wait any longer to do,” said Rudy Fyles, chief operations officer. “They address safety, as well as educational improvements.”


Each year the district sets aside money to complete such work during the summer months when buildings are empty. The difficult job, Fyles said, is narrowing a long list of needs to the most critical projects to complete.


Spinning Elementary School


One of the most noticeable school improvement projects this summer is at Spinning Elementary School.


ImageOld carpeting and tile flooring has been replaced inside the building, windows have been added in the entry lobby to improve visibility, and overgrown shrubbery has been removed or trimmed around the building to further increase visibility.


Windows have also been replaced, the building exterior has been painted, a wooden trellis with the school name has been built, and the flagpole has been moved next to the trellis to create a more clearly defined school entry off 12th Street Southeast.


Improvements to the school front, as well as the removal of a sidewalk leading to the old, no-longer-used entry door on the north side of the school along Pioneer Avenue, are designed to help parents and community members new to the school have a clear idea of where the entry is located, said Principal Collette Stewart.


The $265,000 of improvements is a tenth of the cost of the building upgrades that had been targeted for the aging school as part of the February 2013 school bond, Fyles said. Voters rejected that bond issue, which needed a 60 percent supermajority to pass.


Stewart said the summer improvements will help with safety and school pride. “Spinning is an old building, and while our custodian is spectacular, the carpeting was down to the fine threads,” she said. “It was also difficult to see people coming in and out of the lobby because of the location of the entry.”


Even with security cameras, the addition of several windows, as well as the removal of a wall that had closed off a section of the courtyard in the center of the school, will contribute to a safer environment and expand learning opportunities, Stewart said.


The courtyard, for example, can now be garden, science projects, or other learning, she said.


Electronic door access (Brouillet Elementary and Emerald Ridge High)


A significant safety consideration in all schools is how people enter and exit a building. The district is continuing to replace key access on exterior doors at all schools with a card reader system that allows authorized staff to present a card near the electronic device to enter and exit.


Authorized staff members can also immediately lock such doors remotely during an emergency or lockdown procedure. In the past, staff needed to physically lock doors designed for key access only.


More access card reader systems are being added this summer to doors that lead to high traffic areas at Brouillet Elementary and Emerald Ridge High schools.


“Additional card reader installations and improvements will allow the staff at Emerald Ridge to quickly and safely lock all exterior doors at the school with the push of a button from any computer in case of emergency and/or drills,” said Principal Brian Lowney. “This technology allows staff to focus our energy on ensuring the safety of the students and staff at school in a way that was not possible previously.”


Security cameras (several schools)


Additional surveillance cameras are being installed at several schools this summer, including Shaw Road, Spinning, and Stewart Elementary schools. By the end of fall, plans are to have more cameras added to Puyallup and Walker high schools; Edgemont and Ferrucci junior high schools; and Pope, Fruitland, and Karshner elementary schools.


The cameras serve as a deterrent to vandalism or suspicious activity when placed inside school stairwells or hallways, as well as at outside-facing school entries, exits, parking lots, portable classrooms, and fields, said Gary Frentress, director of capital projects.


All of the district’s newer schools built since 2000 — including Emerald Ridge High, Glacier View Junior High, and Carson and Edgerton elementary schools — have extensive camera systems installed as part of the design.


Karshner Elementary Principal Arturo Gonzalez welcomes the addition of cameras at his school. “The cameras help provide us with the ability to view high-traffic common areas that are blind spots from the office.”


Safety planning


A committee formed last year will meet again this year to continue the district’s efforts to develop educational specifications (building plans) specifically related to security for kindergarten through grade 12.Image


About a dozen people serve on the committee, including school principals, district administrators, and school resource officers.


Committee members address security issues such as building entry and landscape designs, camera surveillance, building alarms, lighting, mass notification systems, night security, intercom systems, and fencing/gates.


“Making security a high priority in the plans of future schools, school renovation projects, and existing schools is a challenging yet worthwhile process,” said committee member Jeff Papen, a Pierce County Sheriff Deputy and district School Resource Officer.


Papen continued, “Establishing criteria for school projects with safety in mind not only helps with crime prevention, but it also creates an environment where first responders can be more successful during a crisis or emergency response.”


Other projects


Other summer facility projects include:


• Replacing the aging roof at Hunt Elementary, which has been repeatedly patched and has dry rot; and the Edgerton Elementary roof, which was built in 2007 and is covered by a warranty.


• Installing a gate at the Ridgecrest Elementary parking lot entrance to keep cars out on nights and weekends.


• Improving lighting at the rear of Pope Elementary and around its portable classrooms. Principal Dave Sunich said the lighting will “brighten dark corners and increase safety for staff and visitors who walk in those areas during evening events and early mornings, often when it is still dark out.”


• Connecting two special education classrooms with a door at Stahl Junior High.


• Replacing ceramic tiles near the front steps of Puyallup High School with a non-slip surface. The district has treated the tile surface over the years to prevent it from being slippery, however the treatments wear off quickly, Frentress said.


• Preparing two portable classrooms at Kalles Junior High, which had been used as Facilities department support buildings, for classroom use this year.


• Painting and caulking portable classrooms throughout the district as part of an ongoing weatherization project. • Replacing an uneven hard surface play area at Karshner Elementary.


• Moving a classroom entry ramp to the opposite side of two portable classrooms at Hunt Elementary to improve visibility and safety of students and staff. The new ramps face the building front and playground.


• Replacing a carpeted science classroom with tile flooring at Walker High School to support the use of hands-on experiments that use water, chemicals, and Bunsen burners. In the past, most science lessons consisted of lectures, videos, and book work, said Principal Alicia Nosworthy. “My goal is to build a comprehensive science program at Walker High School,” she said.


• Moving a portable classroom to Walker High School to create room for the Child Find program, which is being relocated from the old Riverside Elementary School site. Child Find screens preschool-aged children who might qualify for special education and related services.


• Adding two portable classrooms at Glacier View Junior High to relieve current crowded conditions and accommodate potential enrollment growth.


• Extending the student drop-off and pick-up areas in the Ferrucci Junior High parking lot in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion onto Wildwood Park Drive as family members drop off or pick up students before and after school.