VUSD to implement new school safety system

Visalia Unified plans to implement a new security software from Raptor Technologies to ensure student and staff safety at a moment’s notice

VISALIA – A parent should never have to worry about their child’s safety when they send them off to school and Visalia Unified School District is taking steps to ensure their students, teachers and staff are safe and informed when it comes to potential emergencies.

Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) is taking proactive safety measures by implementing a school safety software system from Raptor Technologies. The system will connect employees through a software system on all district devices, making district-wide communication easier. The software will allow the district to screen anybody going on a campus and let district and staff know who is on campus at all times, while also creating a pathway of communication with parents.

“As I’ve been to campuses, what I’ve seen is we have some practices that are inconsistent when it comes to safety and security that we need to bring some consistency,” VUSD superintendent Kirk Shrum said.

The district board approved the adoption of the system in early July. Rick Hamilton, administrator for Instructional Technologies with VUSD, said there is not a set date for when the system will take effect on school sites, since it’s still early in the project development process. However, the current, estimated goal is to have it ready by early to mid October.           

“We’re in the process of generating the purchase orders and working with the vendor. There’s some equipment involved, and that’s already been shipped,” Hamilton said. “Then there’s a whole rollout process. We have to train our folks and get [the system] all set up.”

The program’s emergency management system will be applied to all staff-issued devices in order to keep district and campus employees informed in the case of an emergency situation. According to David Rogers, chief marketing officer with Raptor Technologies, it will also be able to inform district and campus employees of potential emergencies. 

“When there is an emergency, [schools] want to be able to respond quickly,” Rogers said. “That’s where emergency management software, and the panic alert buttons, that we offer are super helpful.”      

The new security system can also be applied to staff cell phones through a Raptor Technologies phone app, but is optional for staff. In the circumstance of an emergency such as a potential earthquake or active shooter drill, district administration can send out an alert informing necessary staff and the police department of the need for emergency protocols, like a lockdown. The alert is utilized through a “panic button,” which has five different levels of urgency, according to Hamilton.

“If you’re a district employee, and you’re working on campus that day, it’s almost like an Amber Alert,” Shrum said.

Alternatively, if a staff member, like a teacher, is in a situation that calls for a quieter approach, they can utilize the system’s “Team Assist” option. This option is also utilized through the system’s “panic button” and is one of the lower of the five levels. It can be used to help a teacher deal with a disruptive student in their classroom, or get assistance for a student with a medical emergency, by allowing the teacher to contact the necessary staff member to best deal with the situation. That could be a principal, administrator, nurse or whoever is best equipped to handle the situation at hand.

For visitor management, the screening system will work by having visitors scan their state-issued ID or driver’s license before going onto a campus, according to Hamilton. This will help prevent anyone not allowed on school campuses from trespassing on school property, like registered sex offenders. It will also help prevent kids from being picked up or pulled out of school by a parent not registered as the child’s legal guardian or emergency contact.

The system also ties in with the district’s current school information system, which is how the district manages student attendance, grades and records. The system will have the ability to send out notices to parents, guardians and emergency contacts for a variety of reasons. 

One is for what Raptor calls a “reunification” process, which would happen in the circumstance of a school fire, where the school might need to dismiss students due to evacuation. Once the child has been retrieved by an emergency contact, not only would staff be informed of the student being safely picked up, but so would anyone else on their emergency contact list to avoid confusion or worry, according to Hamilton.

The school information system will also be able to track student tardiness without the hassle of going through school office administration, according to Hamilton. This applies more so to high schools, when students leave campus during lunchtime. If a student leaves for lunch and returns late to campus, they will receive a tardy slip upon scanning their student-issued ID at a kiosk and can make their way straight to class. If tardiness becomes an issue, school staff will be able to address it with them at a later time.

The discovery of Raptor Technologies came about after the search for a new superintendent brought about a survey to members of the Visalia community asking to identify areas that required more attention involving education. There were three major areas that respondents focused on more than others, which are academics, safety and communication. To best address those areas, Visalia Unified Superintendent Kirk Shrum has ensured his superintendent entry plan coming into VUSD will tackle community concerns by instating new district administrative positions, getting Visalia students connected with the community and updating current school security measures.

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