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Superintendent's News

Posted: May 5, 2023

Providing Our Educators With Another Tool to Deal With Campus Emergencies

In his weekly message, Superintendent Scott Elder discusses a new crisis alert system that will be deployed at APS schools.

Safety has been a recurring issue throughout the school year as the number of guns found on campuses has increased.

We know there isn’t a single solution to this problem. Nevertheless, we continue to work hard to fortify our schools and to send a unified message with police and prosecutors that anyone who brings a gun to school will face severe consequences.

In our ongoing efforts to make schools safe, we sometimes engage in tabletop exercises, essentially drills on how we would handle a crisis situation. We conduct those drills to ensure that we’re prepared in the event that a crisis unfolds and to identify potential problems we might be faced with.

During one such drill this past fall, we discovered a potential problem: teachers struggling to summon help when dealing with a problem in their classroom or elsewhere on campus. Dr. Gabriella Blakey, our chief operations officer, and her team began searching for a solution and discovered a company called Centegix and its crisis alert system, which enables teachers to summon help by clicking their badges. That action would send messages to school officials and relay exactly where on campus the emergency is.

Last week, the Board of Education signed off on the tool, which comes with a $7.3 million price tag.

So how will it work?

School staff will get crisis alert badges that must be worn at all times while on campus. If a staffer encounters a medical emergency, students fighting, or another incident and needs help, that staff member would click the badge three times. The badge would vibrate briefly to let the staffer know the signal was received. The call for help would then be relayed to school administrators and others designated by the school as individuals who must respond to such calls.

In an active shooter situation or similar emergency, the staffer would click the crisis alert badge continuously, and that action would automatically trigger a schoolwide lockdown. Strobes in each classroom and throughout the school would flash, and a prerecorded lockdown announcement would be activated advising everyone at the school to lock their doors and follow the school’s emergency protocols. The system would alert school officials and police of the emergency.

All alerts would be monitored at a centralized APS location.

Company officials have assured us that the badges will work at any APS school. Centegix says it can guarantee that the entire campus – be it a ball field or far-off building – would be covered because the company is building its own network. The system doesn’t rely on the school’s Wi Fi or the cellular network.

We’re eager to get this system up and running because it provides another tool to help our teachers and other school staff members respond to campus emergencies.

We’re working hard to find solutions and investing millions on capital projects aimed at keeping our campuses safe.

Since 2016, our district has spent $39.8 million on things like cameras and alarms, door locks, fencing and gates, card access, and creating secure vestibules at schools. That figure doesn’t include the money we’re spending on the crisis alert system.

We will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to ensure the safety of our schools.