CHAMPAIGN – Visitors to Edison Middle School will now be greeted at the door and asked for identification, in the wake of a report of an intruder in the building Wednesday.
Shortly after noon Wednesday, a student reported seeing a man in the building, near a restroom, and became concerned, said Principal Joe Williams. No intruder was found.
Williams said the building was locked down immediately – all doors were locked and students were kept from moving through the building. He said sixth- and eighth-grade students were in class, and they were kept in their classrooms.
The seventh-grade students were on the playground for recess. All the physical education and seventh-grade teachers at the school were sent to the playground, and the students remained there while the building was searched. Faculty and staff who weren't supervising students were dispersed throughout the school.
Edison's school resource officer, Jonathan Westfield, was outside the building, but he arrived within minutes of being notified of the report, along with a school resource officer from another school, Williams said. Four patrol officers who were in the area also came to the school.
The school was searched, and no intruder was found. School resumed about 40 minutes after the report was made, Williams said. Police are still investigating.
Parents were notified of the report and how the school responded.
Williams is meeting today with a state police sergeant who deals with school safety, and they will walk the building together.
Williams is posting a staff member at the building's only unlocked door, to identify any visitors and give them a name tag. He said there will also be more police presence in the neighborhood surrounding the school for now.
Williams said Westfield's presence in the school gives staff and students a greater sense of security.
"When it comes to things like this, he knows every nook and cranny (of the building) as well as we do," he said.
The building also has two hall monitors. They didn't see any intruder Wednesday, Williams said.
The school district has added cameras in the hallways and at certain strategic locations in its high schools, Jefferson Middle School, Columbia Center and the Early Childhood Center. Edison was scheduled to get cameras this year, and Williams said that will happen quickly.
Last week, Assistant Superintendent Ecomet Burley told the school board the district is looking at putting cameras at the front doors of all its buildings as well. The board also discussed installing buzzer systems, so anyone entering the school would have to be buzzed in by school personnel.
The district has taken other steps to improve safety, including adding keyless entry systems, developing an emergency management plan, limited the number of entry points in buildings, and added hall monitors in the middle schools.
Williams said he will be having more discussions with his staff about security, and with students as well.
"We'll probably talk with the kids, 'If you see an adult in the building who is not a teacher and doesn't have a pass or sticker that says who they are, you need to tell us,'" he said.
He said he is pleased with how the students and staff responded Wednesday.