ROXBURY, NJ – The Roxbury school board is looking to spend more than a half-million dollars this year to build “man traps” at three schools and it hopes to eventually install the security vestibules at all seven schools in the district.
Man traps are small rooms, built inside building entrances, that provide an additional layer of security. Inside the rooms, people wishing to enter the schools will be required to provide some form of approved identification and convince security personnel of their need to come in.
“You’re buzzed into one door and a person will say, ‘Can I help you? Can I see your ID,’” said Roxbury Schools Security Director Jim Simonetti at the board’s Tuesday meeting. He said machines installed in the man traps can create visitor badges for those cleared to enter.
At the meeting, the board authorized appropriating $580,000 in emergency reserve funds, the estimated cost of installing man traps at Roxbury High School, Eisenhower Middle School and Lincoln-Roosevelt School.
Simonetti, Roxbury’s former police chief, said he would like to see the traps installed this summer when school is closed. “We are putting it out to bid … Some schools need more work than others,” he said.
The discussion of man traps was part of a “comprehensive security plan” outlined at the meeting by Simonetti, who was hired about five months ago after retiring from the police department. “What we are trying to do is control access into our schools,” he said. “We also want to evaluate how we’re responding to critical incidents.”
Roxbury schools currently have security cameras and buzzer systems at their entrances that require visitors to give their name and purpose for visiting. “It’s sufficing for now,” Simonetti said. “But we can improve.”
He said the man trap systems can be linked to databases that alert school security officials if a visitor should not be given access due to court orders or other issues. “We’re not trying to lock out anybody from particular in-school functions,” he said, noting the systems would be in use only during regular school hours. “This just tightens it down a little bit. It also records who’s coming and going. We now have approximately 60 people a day going in and out of the high school for different reasons.”
Another security measure being recommended by Simonetti involves what some might label a blow to civility: People should no longer hold open, or open, a school door for those coming behind them. “I’m going to ask you not to,” Simonetti said, noting that doing so creates a security breach.
Similarly, Simonetti is urging students to not use pencils, book bags or other items to prop open doors when they need to run out to their car for forgotten items. This “stop the prop” idea came from students during Simonetti’s discussions with them about school security, he said.