Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit April 14, 2014 - 6:26 am

Nunavut government will vet, video all Iqaluit school visitors

New security clamp-down to start this September

DAVID MURPHY

(Updated April 14, 5:30 p.m. with correction: visitors will be screened by video, but not photographed)

Get ready for an elaborate screening process if you plan on visiting your kid at school in Iqaluit next fall.

The Government of Nunavut is installing new security systems at all Iqaluit schools as a pilot project starting September.

The intent: to keep strangers out during school hours.

“There have been some minor incidents with an irate person coming into the school, so this should eliminate this type of thing,” said Barry Cornthwaite, the manager of capital planning with the Department of Education.

It’s a buzzer-camera system, and visitors must explain their intentions to an administrator at the school’s front desk before they’re allowed in.

“You walk into the first section of doors and there’s going to be a camera and a push button,” Cornthwaite said.

“That push button will make a noise at the security’s desk.” 

The receptionist is alerted and a camera will display the person’s image on a video screen in the school’s administration office. The receptionist will then ask why the person is entering the school.

“It’s just to make sure the wrong people aren’t getting into the school,” Cornthwaite said.

The education department is budgeting $20,000 per school for the new system.

Those schools include Ataguttaaluk Elementary in Igloolik and Nakasuk, Aqsarniit Middle School, Inuksuk High School and École des Trois-Soleils in Iqaluit. 

It was the Iqaluit District Education Authority that asked the GN for extra security measures in a letter sent shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the United States.

On Dec. 14, 2012, lone gunman Adam Lanza, 20, wandered into the Connecticut school and killed 20 children and six adults before shooting himself. 

“That’s when the letter came to us, about the same time,” Cornthwaite said.

“Their letter didn’t refer to it, but it had everyone on high alert for daycares and everything across Canada after these things happened,” he said.

The GN brought up a security consultant who poked holes through security measures in Iqaluit schools after the IDEA’s letter, and the consultant recommended restricted entrances at the schools.

Cornthwaite said Nunavut RCMP were also worried about security in the schools.

Earlier this year, RCMP had to rush to Inuksuk and shut the school down for a day after a bomb scare — likely a teenage prank

Iqaluit schools already have exterior cameras set up to monitor things like vandalism, Cornthwaite said.

But inside the school there’s only a sign informing visitors they must check in at the front desk upon entering. 

“We put signs up to report to the office when they enter to the building. And we found that wasn’t truly effective. Everyone wasn’t doing that,” Cornthwaite said.

“I’ve been at schools at different times, and whether it’s a parent bringing a lunch to the children or a contractor, they just go scooting right into the school,” he said.

“And this was a great concern to the RCMP — we have to know who’s in the school if there’s ever a lock down or lock out procedure in place. We have to know who’s in the school.”

The IDEA said they’ve been working closely with parents and the GN about this project. 

“We are pleased to see this initiative is making progress and look forward to the installation of the new systems,” the IDEA chairperson, Andrew Tagak Sr., said in a statement to Nunatsiaq News.

“Ensuring that Iqaluit schools are safe spaces for students, parents and staff has been a priority area for the IDEA,” he said. 
If the pilot project is deemed a success, Cornthwaite said the systems could be installed in all schools around Nunavut, pending talks with other local education authorities.

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