SARTELL -- When designing began for the new Sartell high school safety and security was just as high of a priority as teaching and learning. Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert says they started talking about security from the very beginning.

We did bring in a safety expert, our architect group had her come in and sit down with us, she was an expert who had written after the Sandy Hook dreadful incident.  We talked with our police department, our fire department, and her and the board to come up with these general ideas of what we wanted to work on.

Schwiebert says the new high school has three focus areas for safety and security, one is visibility, another is good communication throughout the building, and the third is the ability to lock down certain parts of the building if there is a problem.

He says before the school opened for the school year the Sartell police department did a walk through to make sure their communications equipment worked throughout the building.

One of the first things you'll notice when you drive up to the school is the parking lot and the sidewalk up to the main entrance are a ways away. Schwiebert says that's their first line of defense to give them time to react if there is a threat approaching the school.

We can look out and if there are problems that are taking place out there we can prevent those problems from getting here in the building because we can see it.  It's going to be a bit of a trek in our cold Minnesota winters, but the idea behind that is to have visibility to see what's happening.

The school resource officer's office is at the front entrance with his window facing the parking lot so he can spot any potential threats.

Schwiebert says the school is broken up into several learning neighborhoods. In the main office, there are buttons that the staff can push to lock down the learning neighborhoods if they hear that there is a threat in one of them, which would allow them to isolate that threat.

You'll also notice that most of the classrooms have glass walls, Schwiebert says that design feature allows the teachers and students to see into the hallway and know if there is a problem coming their way.

Schwiebert says their four major entrances are all open when the kids are arriving each morning, but then at 8:30 a.m. they all automatically lock and everyone needs to go through the main office to get into the building. He says soon there will be another layer of security too.

We are in the process of also installing one more security system.  You'll have to swipe your driver's license, so even though you come in and look appropriate, you're now going to do one more background check before we let a person in the building.  Those will be going in here later in September in all of our buildings.

Schwiebert says their security system lets them know if any doors are unlocked.

They've also installed high definition 270-degree security cameras throughout the grounds, which allows them to see live if there is a potential threat anywhere on the property.

He says they've focused on good visibility, communication, and the ability to isolate any threat.

I would like to say we've done as much as we possibly can to make sure we keep our kids as safe as possible.  Safe is a relative term.  However, the only way to be 100% safe in any situation is to box yourself in and don't let anybody in and don't have any way out.  That's not going to work in public education, so we think we're as close to that as we can be.

The Tech and Sartell high schools were both designed by the same architect and have many of the same safety and security features.

Now that the Sartell high school students are in their new building, the district will spend this school year retrofitting the former high school adding many new safety features before it opens next fall as the district's new middle school.

You can check out the two new high schools for yourself.

The Sartell High School grand opening celebration is Saturday, September 14th from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. With a ribbon-cutting at 11:00 a.m. and dedication at 2:00 p.m.

The Tech High School grand opening is Monday, September 16th with a ceremony at 6:00 p.m. and self-guided tours from 6:45 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

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