School goes state of the art to keep kids safe

Published On: Sep 27 2013 11:49:28 AM CDT   Updated On: Sep 27 2013 12:08:56 PM CDT

The new school year began Monday at Honey Tree and Branches Academy in West Wichita. The school moved into a brand new building with significant upgrades in safety and security to give parents peace of mind.

The focus on protecting students is reflective of a new direction for the future schools in the wake of deadly school shootings and tornadoes.

Owner Kimberly Fielding said during construction, several parents asked her how she was planning to keep their children safe. Fielding decided to outfit the building with surveillance cameras, an above ground safe room and shelter, and a computerized check-in program that parents can access via smartphones.

Fielding said the upgrades give peace of mind to her staff and parents.

The check-in system slows parents to control their own user profile and determine who is authorized to pick up their child.  The system is equipped with photos of authorized adults that can be checked from every classroom in the building.

The building has a FEMA approved above ground storm shelter with 12 inch thick concrete walls. It's built to guard against 120 mile per hours winds. The room can also serve as a safe room in the event of an intrusion, Fielding said.

Fielding hopes to never need many of the features, but knows she's better off having them, just in case. She believes the school is a model for what other small private schools and daycare facilities can provide.