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Helena's high schools getting major security upgrades
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Helena's high schools getting major security upgrades

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A contractor works on Capital High School main office Thursday.

A contractor works on Capital High School's main office Thursday. All of Helena's public schools are receiving security upgrades as part of a three-year effort that is slated to be completed this fall. 

Capital High School and Helena High School are getting major security upgrades this summer. 

According to Helena Public Schools Facilities Director Kali Kind, these projects are included in a broader initiative to upgrade all of the schools in the district. This initiative will be complete this fall, after three years of construction projects.

Kind said the elementary upgrades were funded by a portion of the $63 million bond voters approved in 2017. She said the high school upgrades are being funded primarily with state money earmarked and distributed to school districts via their facility maintenance reports, along with additional funds from the district's building reserve fund.

At Capital High, the main office will be reconfigured to face the entryway. Kind said there will be windows overlooking the foyer, and the main desk will face the open area at the entrance to the school.

The main doors at CHS will have a vestibule entry that is controlled by staff in the main office. The public will enter the vestibule first, and access to the greater building can be granted at the staff's discretion. Kind said the goal is to see each entry, each student and all visitors to the schools.

"We are making secretaries front and center," Kind said. "They were too buried with no visibility on the front door."

The building's other entrances will be locked during class hours and unlocked only when monitored by staff during transition periods. Each entry will also have cameras, which will allow office staff to buzz in students who present ID to the camera. If a door remains open for too long an alarm will go off.

At Helena High, the building's rear entrance near the parking lot is being transformed into a main entrance. An approximately 120-square-foot office will be built in the cafeteria to house 1-2 staff members at all times, according to Kind. The entryway will also have a vestibule installed to provide the same tiered entry that other main entrances will have.

Like Capital High, HHS will have the same door monitoring and cameras installed at each entrance. Staff will be able to buzz in students and visitors via their cellphones.

Both schools will also have a monitoring system in their main offices.

Kind said these upgrades are expected to be completed by Oct. 31. School district officials had hoped to have the projects finished during the summer, but delays meant they could either have them finished by October or wait until next summer. 

This summer will also see security upgrades at the Project for Alternative Learning, Kessler, Jefferson, Hawthorne and Ray Bjork. Kind said the projects are relatively simple at each of these schools except Hawthorne. 

Hawthorne's office will move from the upper floor to the lower floor, and officials took the opportunity to make a heated ADA-accessible entryway to the building. 

Once the upgrades are complete, every school in the district will be upgraded to a more modern security system.

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