Installation of a $93,000 security system was completed this month at Aspen’s Yellow Brick Building, where about 150 children attend preschool.
The system — which includes a biometric fingerprint reader, surveillance cameras and classroom panic buttons — was proposed in early 2013 following the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut, where a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 kindergarten students and six staff members.
Kids First Director Shirley Ritter said it seems like almost every other week a shooting spree is reported. In December, a high school senior opened fire at his school in Centennial, killing a 17-year-old classmate. On Saturday, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people at a mall in Columbia, Md.
“It’s a bigger issue than we’re going to be able to figure out, but I feel like our job is to make sure the kids and the people in this building are safe,” Ritter said.
After Sandy Hook, access to the building was limited to the east and west entrances of the building, and parents were required to check in with a front-desk attendant. Heather Stevenson, whose daughter is enrolled at Yellow Brick, said that while the fingerprint reader is smoother than checking in with an attendant, some intimacy has been lost. She said that because parents have been told not to hold the door open for others, it makes for some awkward interactions.
“I can’t say that if I was with somebody I knew that I wouldn’t let them walk in. Of course I would,” Stevenson said. “If you don’t know somebody, you might just sort of let the door close, but what if somebody sticks their foot in? Are you going to yell, ‘Go to the keypad!’?”
She said that because many parents are polite, it makes the system vulnerable. For instance, even if a parent looks familiar, he or she may not be allowed to see their child that day.
Ritter said that no system is perfect and that it’s important that parents and teachers remain vigilant.
“If you’re a teacher in a room, even if somebody got into the building but they’re not wearing a name tag, it’s OK to say, ‘I’m sorry. Who are you looking for? Can I help you?’ — in a good way,” she said.
There have been no security threats at the Yellow Brick since Basalt-based Proguard installed the security system.
Teachers Anne-Marie Rosen and Mary Ballou both said it took a little while to get used to the increased security, but now they hardly notice it.
“It seemed like a big deal at the beginning, but it hasn’t really changed things much,” Ballou said, adding that her kids are mostly oblivious to the new gadgets. “I think it’s important to minimize what all of us adults are worried about.”
Kids First, a city entity, also shares the space with two city departments and two nonprofits. Wes Graham, of Special Events, said his work routine hasn’t changed at all.
Stevenson said one positive of the security system is that the children interact more with one another. Before, she would use the back door to the classroom to drop her daughter off directly. Now they have to enter through the main entrance and walk the hallway to class.
“They see each other more,” she said. “When they go in in the morning, they pass all the other classrooms now.”