Our view: Let’s achieve ‘next level’ of security in Grand Forks schools

So as Grand Forks school officials tout security as one of the new components included in an upcoming district referendum, our interest is piqued.

Herald pull quote, 4/15/23
Herald graphic

In October, police converged on Red River High School following a call of an active shooter. It later was determined to be a hoax, carried out simultaneously at a number of schools in the Dakotas.

But it was unnerving nonetheless.

So as Grand Forks school officials tout security as one of the new components included in an upcoming district referendum, our interest is piqued.

The proposal is to include $18 million worth of security upgrades, not only for a proposed new Valley Middle School, but also elsewhere throughout the district.

The district has had security procedures and standards in place since 1999, following a school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Superintendent Terry Brenner told the Herald earlier this week. But standards can always be improved.


On May 16, Grand Forks voters will be asked to decide whether the district can go forward with a $79 million proposal to build a new Valley Middle School and a new $6 million districtwide central kitchen, to be placed near the Sanford Center, the district’s headquarters. The third component of the referendum includes the safety and security improvements throughout the district. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Alerus Center.

All of the district’s buildings have certain levels of security and standards to help protect students and staff from the danger of an active shooter. Among them are push-to-talk checkpoints at entryways, cameras and, at some schools, actual security personnel.

But more can be done.

“We want to make sure there is a more secure vestibule, so the only place they can be buzzed into is the office space,” Brenner told the Herald. “Tied up with that $18 million (security component) would be physically relocating many of our school main offices to the main access point of that school.

Also tied up in the 18 million is upgraded mass notification systems, fire alarm systems. You name it.”

The school has enlisted ICON Architects as a consultant. Kyle Kvamme, ICON’s director of community engagement and project development, told the Herald earlier this week that “secure entries is a big piece” of the proposal but not all of it.

“The message that we want people to understand is, what is the next level of security and safety the district can take?” he said. “That’s mass notification in ways that are integrated. It could be a teacher in one wing that sends a message and the rest of the staff would know where that message came from, as opposed to someone pulling an alarm and you don’t know what is going on. The other piece is physical barriers to slow people down, to be a visual deterrent.”

Buildings constructed decades ago often placed the office in the middle of the school. That practice is drastically out of date, Kvamme said.


“It’s about controlling the flow of the building and making sure there are eyes on those people as they approach … so you can understand what you’re dealing with,” he said. “The district has done many, many things to handle safety, but this is the next level.”

As tragic incidents continue to happen in public places across the nation, we’re all for “the next level” of security in Grand Forks schools.

Voters must keep this in mind as they consider the May 16 referendum.

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