Bartlesville will now require visitors to pass background checks before gaining access to any school

BARTLESVILLE, OKLA. - Anyone planning to visit the schools in Bartlesville this year will have to pass a background check first.

The district had a new visitor monitoring system installed during summer break. School leaders chose a company called LobbyGuard to place touch-screen kiosks at the entrance of every school building. The new system will only affect parents, school volunteers and vendors that visit any of the campuses.

"(LobbyGuard) is a kiosk, an electronic sign-in kiosk that prompts you to scan your driver's license," said Chris Tanea, community relations coordinator for the Bartlesville Public School District.

"It runs a background check and prints out an ID badge that you're able to wear on your shirt throughout the school," he said. "It's just a better way to track the visitors we have coming in and out of our school sites."

The district used a portion of the $36 million bond issue passed last year to pay for security upgrades. About $1.4 million went to buy new surveillance cameras as well as the LobbyGuard system. The district decided to install some kind of visitor monitoring system after a committee looked into new safeguards for all the schools.

"We've always been concerned about safety," said Kerry Ickleberry, the district's safe schools coordinator. "Every time you learn a lesson from something that happened at a different school district, then you want to see if that something we could to change here to make something safer."

When visitors scan their driver's license, passport or state-issued ID at one of the LobbyGuard kiosks, Ickleberry said their names are run against several state criminal databases, including those for violent and sexual offenders.

"We can also add our own alert," she said, "if there's somebody we know should not be on our campus or we've asked them not to come back for a particular reason."

School leaders said the new sign-in system will come in handy in all kinds of situations.

"If we were ever having to escape a fire, I want to know did everybody get out? Who all was in the building?" Ickleberry said. "It just is one more layer of protection, and it gives us a peace of mind knowing who's in our building."

The district said it usually takes less than a minute for someone to sign in using LobbyGuard, pass the background check and get a visitor's badge. School leaders said there could be delays, though, as everyone gets acclimated to the new system.

"It's going to take a little getting used to in the beginning," Tanea said. "Those few extra seconds are certainly going to be worth a peace of mind and extra layer of safety and security for our kids and our staff."

The district is working right now to let students and their families know about all the security upgrades, which Martha Waddell is welcoming.

"There are wonderful people in Bartlesville, but there are some bad people so you have to be prepared either way," said Waddell, whose granddaughter will be a senior this school year.

"I don't care whether they do a background check on me," she said, "but I can see where some people might oppose that."

Other districts around Green Country also use LobbyGuard at their schools, including Owasso and Muskogee.

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