Iowa schools making security upgrades in wake of shootings - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa schools making security upgrades in wake of shootings

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EPWORTH (KWWL) -

As school shootings have grown more common in the last 15 years, schools nationwide have been upgrading their security systems to help protect students.

Western Dubuque High School in Epworth is in the middle of tightening its security. It's an upgrade principal Dave Hoeger said his predecessors started exploring before he became an administrator in 2003.

Currently, anybody can walk right in to the high school through the main entrance. While there's some surveillance, Hoeger said it's not enough.

"You spend your whole day just thinking about what classes you're going to offer and how you're going to help kids," Hoeger said. "To stop and say, 'Well, what do I do if somebody comes in and has a gun?' I mean, that's just a whole different mindset, and it just is not something you even want to talk about or think about."

This school of about 850 students is in the middle of renovating its main entrance, so visitors will have to enter through the front office before gaining access to the rest of the school.

"When you remodel or redesign or build a new building, the security features have completely changed," Hoeger said. "The office is no longer in the middle of the building, where it used to be designed. Now it's in the front entrance and they try to secure the front entrance as much as possible."

The renovated entrance and new office space is set for completion in May.

Additionally, a grant of more than $45,000 from the Dubuque Racing Association will help schools throughout the Western Dubuque School District upgrade their security cameras and surveillance systems.

Hoeger said tight security is absolutely necessary in light of school shootings around the US.

"It's just so much different than what you're about and what you're trying to accomplish at school, to have to think of losing kids and losing teachers as a result of violence like that," Hoeger said. "It's just tragic, and it's just a terrible thing to think about."

Since 2003, he said, Western Dubuque High School has partnered with area law enforcement agencies to develop safety strategies and lockdown procedures, which they update every year.

"It used to be kind of: surround the area and kind of feel out what's going on in the situation, and now they're taking a much more active approach," Hoeger said. "If there's an incident at a school, our goal is to get in the school as soon as possible."

Hoeger began teaching in 1989 and said he doesn't remember gun violence in schools as even being a topic of conversation back then.

"But certainly, after some of the more infamous, tragic situations in high schools, this became a big issue," he said. "It's just almost surreal to think of that happening in a school setting, and I can't even wrap my head around what goes on in other schools when that happens. I think about them, and it would be very difficult to think how you would get past that and move forward."

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