WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The Watertown City School District is putting a tighter lock on school security.

Through a multi-million dollar grant program, the District recently upgraded security measures at its eight school buildings.

The District’s Director of Technology Jeffrey Wood said one of the main features is each building’s front door screening process.

“What it allows us to do, from a security perspective is to do a better job at vetting people that want to come into the building,” Wood explained. “It also gives a way for us to let staff that are in the building know they have a visitor.”

When visitors arrive at any of the buildings, they will be required to speak through a camera, which will unlock the main entrance.

They would then enter a secure containment area, which includes a window with bulletproof glass where they must present identification. IDs are then put through a database to screen for any red flags such as offenders or custody issues.

If no issues are found, visitors receive a temporary badge, including their photo, which they must wear throughout their time in the respective building.

The District also upgraded its security cameras and wireless network, added strictly-timed alarms on doors, blue lights in hallways and outside of the buildings, PA system and phone system. All of which are connected on a district-wide safety network.

“All of these things are integrated together,” Wood added. “They all work together. So if one system is triggered, alerts are sent either through the phone system or through our email system or texting.”

The project itself began three years ago, but Superintendent Patricia LaBarr said the updates could not have come at a better time.

“Coming out of COVID-19, there are a lot of mental health issues, and there has just been a lot of increase in school violence, and violence in general across the nation,” LaBarr expressed. “So the timing for this is actually perfect.”

As the project has been done in phases, staff have been trained on new elements throughout the year. But most training will be complete by the start of school this fall. Informational videos will also be sent out to parents during the summer months.

The District also has two school resource officers, one located at Case Middle School and the other at Watertown High School.

LaBarr concluded by expressing her confidence as these measures grow to meet the needs of the District.

“Knowing that we’re in a better place today than we were yesterday is very exciting. It’s going to be a great way to start the next school year. It’s just made things, from a safety perspective, really amazing,” LaBarr shared.