Craig Middle School taking extra measures
RAPTOR visitor screening system piloted at school
March 13, 2010
Each day, Craig Middle School secretary Beth Gilchrist watches visitor after visitor walk by the glass window of her office.
Teachers, students, district employees and parents pass back and forth through the school's front doors, which are unlocked by a button behind Gilchrist's desk.
Gilchrist said she recognizes almost everyone, but that doesn't stop her from requesting and scanning the driver's license of each parent and visitor who comes through the door.
As part of a new security system at CMS called RAPTOR, Gilchrist scans each license or state-issued identification through a system that matches names to a database of sexual offenders and prints an electronic visitor's badge.
"It's a little frustrating because I've lived here forever," Gilchrist said. "I know 98 percent of them, or babysat for them or babysat for their dad.
"It's unsettling to know that we have to feel worry that people are going to come in and hurt our kids."
Gilchrist began piloting the security program Feb. 16, and sent a letter home to parents informing them of the new procedures.
She said she hasn't heard any negative feedback from parents, though many have to go back to their cars to retrieve their licenses.
"So far, there hasn't been anyone who hasn't readily turned over their license," Gilchrist said.
District officials have plans to expand the RAPTOR program into the rest of the schools, but do not know when that program expansion will happen.
All six schools in the district are equipped with card scanners and computer software, which cost about $12,000 and was paid for by a 2007 bond issue.
A recurring cost of about $3,000 per year will be added to the district's operating expenses for access to the database.
But CMS Vice Principal Jill Hafey said there's no price for student safety.
"Parents ensure their kids safety when they drop them off here," she said. "We just do our very best. I think it's been going very smoothly so far."
She said there has been some fear around the school prompted by a Feb. 23 shooting at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton.
Two children were wounded before a teacher tackled the shooter — a former student — and forced him to the ground.
Although the shooter had been in the school earlier in the day, the shooting occurred outside and after school.
Hafey said RAPTOR could not have prevented an occurrence like the one that occurred in Littleton, but the new software can be useful in several instances.
"Just to keep track of who is coming in and out of the building," Hafey said. "We'll at least have a paper trail."
So far, two driver's licenses have presented matches to sex offenders in the database, but both were false alarms.
Although there was concern among faculty and students about the possibility of a dangerous stranger entering the premises, Gilchrist said the thought doesn't keep her awake at night.
"Yes, it's certainly possible everywhere," she said. "But I'm not going to live in a fortress. A lot of it boils down to the kids, and if they see someone who's not supposed to be there, they go and tell someone and not try to confront them themselves.
"I'm sorry that we live in a day and age where we have to worry."