When Northridge’s new K-12 school opens this fall on the hill overlooking North Dixie Drive, it will be the first school in the state with a special security system as part of the design.
The $55 million building will feature the BluePoint Alert System, with blue pull-alarms throughout the building, similar to traditional red fire alarms.
“It is great new technology that allows us to contact the Sheriff’s department right away if there is a threat in our building,” said Jeff Lisath, Northridge’s director of safety, security and student affairs.
Unlike a 9-1-1 call that depends largely on a person to accurately report the location and nature of an emergency, the BluePoint alert immediately launches a barrage of information to multiple parties for quick response.
If a teacher or student pulls an alarm to report, for example, an intruder in the building, pendants worn by the staff will immediately alert them to the nature and location of the emergency.
“The software integrates with our camera system so our cameras can pan to that area, which the Sheriff’s department will have quick and immediate access to,” Lisath said.
The Sheriff’s staff then can use the video feed and computerized building floor plans, along with information from staff on the scene, to track the location of the incident and path of the intruder, according to Lisath.
Capt. Dave Parin of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office toured the new Northridge building recently to get a first-hand look at the facility and its advanced safety features. He said the quicker the information goes out, the better.
“The primary thing that we need to get when we are responding somewhere is, where do we need to go and what is happening?” he said. “The more accurate the information is, the better response we can have.”
The BluePoint system cost the district $132,558, plus an additional service fee once it is in operation. Northridge School Board president Tina Fiore said they looked at several services that offer a variety of levels of security and chose this one for its effectiveness.
“Security and safety are very important. We always stress that,” Fiore said.
Schools have a lot of safety-related decisions today — should they invest in special door locks or shatter-resistant film for windows? Should they use training money to help staff and students recognize kids in trouble, or prepare for an active shooter? If they have money for extra staff, should it be a mental health therapist or an armed school resource officer?
Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said her members would like to see more focus on addressing student behavioral issues than on fortifying schools.
“There are a lot of concerns in our schools about the increasing number of severe behaviors we see, which calls for the need for mental health specialists and behavioral health specialists,” Cropper said. “Our teachers without question need training on how to recognize problems and deescalate situations and do trauma-informed instruction. … But getting to the root of those problems requires more specialized training. That’s why we need these other professionals in our schools.”
The Buckeye Association of School Administrators trains superintendents on what has worked for other districts and what hasn’t, according to Tom Ash, BASA’s director of governmental relations.
He said school safety is “a constantly changing landscape,” and needs can vary from district to district and even school to school. In the same district, if one school is right around the corner from a police station, it may not use a formal school resource officer, while another building that’s a 10-minute drive for emergency responders may want an SRO.
“Districts are meeting regularly with their local first responders, talking about school safety plans and safety enhancements,” Ash said. “They rely a lot on the expertise and recommendations of those first responders for which safety features and training should be built in.”