School Gate program checks credentials of school visitors

A new visitor management system at Milford’s public schools is expected to add a level of safety to the city schools.

In a letter to parents, School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser announced the School Gate Guardian, which will be used in all the public school buildings.

“This is another measure that we are adding as we continually strive to make our schools as safe and secure as they can possibly be,” Feser said. “School Gate Guardian is currently used in over 1,000 school districts nationwide. This new visitor management system will require you and all visitors to have a driver’s license or State ID that our school personnel can scan.”

The scan will check the information against the National Sex Offender database, and in addition, will check the schools’ PowerSchool database for information such as court issued orders that parents/guardians have provided to the student’s school.

If no match is found to the sex offender data base, or there is no conflict with a court order that is on file, the system will print a visitor pass with a picture identifying the person as an approved visitor.

The equipment, installation and training cost $24,608 for all 14 schools, said Coordinator of School Safety and Security Jeffrey Nielsen. “Additionally, we will pay an annual fee of $5,950 for software, licensing, maintenance, etc.”

Nielsen said administrators are taking advantage of school open houses to scan parents’ information into the system, which will make subsequent visits quicker and almost seamless. The way the system will work is visitors will enter the school and hand their identification to a greeter or guard, who will scan their identification and then hand them a pass.

At the end of a visit, a visitor must return his/her visitor pass to the location where it was issued.

The School Gate Guardian system only scans the visitor’s name, date of birth and photo for comparison purposes. No other personal identifying information is saved unless provided by the visitor, school officials said.

If the system raises a question about a visitor’s background, the school administrator will take the necessary steps to ensure the appropriateness of the visit.

“If you believe you are in one of the databases mentioned above, we encourage you to contact your school principal to discuss the situation and make necessary arrangements for your visits,” Feser said in her letter to parents.

Parents and other visitors should bring their driver’s license or state issued ID with them when they plan to visit Milford schools during student occupied times.

“This new visitor management system will deliver effective and consistent management of visitors to our buildings and help to ensure the safety of our school community,” Feser said.

Nielsen said the system not only focuses on who shouldn’t be in the school but also provides a record of who is inside the schoo  should an emergency arise. He said police and firefighters can save valuable time if they know who is in a building and must be accounted for following some type of emergency.

The visitor pass is self-expiring, meaning that within 12 hours of printing the pass it will become void. This prevents the visitor from attempting to use it for future visits.

“In the event a visitor is not deemed appropriate to enter the building, our staff has been trained to ask the visitor to take a seat, and to then seek immediate assistance from other school district personnel,” states information posted on the school website about the School Gate system.