West Catholic HS makes big security changes

Changes were made to West Catholic High School to increase security. (Dec. 4, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan high school has made big changes to increase security for its students and staff.

West Catholic High School has had the same front entrance for more than 50 years.

As more schools increase security, school administrators at West Catholic felt it was time to do the same.

The school worked with several people to make changes.

Kent County Emergency Manager Jack Stewart, a West Catholic alumni, also weighed in on the security upgrades. He walked around the school looking for possible issues, suggesting changes.

“You know the schools are doing a pretty good job on drills, but when they had the opportunity to do some physical changes to the building out there I thought this is outstanding,” Stewart said.

The high school added pillars outside of the front doors to block a car from ever driving into the building.

They also got rid of the old entrance for a new, secure front entrance.

Visitors must now be buzzed into the school by front office staff.

“What you want to do is keep your problem outside,” Stewart said. “Here at West when the office is right here they get a direct visual of the outside, if they see a problem they don’t have to let the problem inside the building.”

West Catholic High School Principal Cynthia Kneibel said all of the upgrades make the entrance more open and transparent.

“It allows the administrative assistants and myself all the way back from my office, I have a direct view to the very front part of the building,” Kneibel said.

The school also added large floor to ceiling windows to all administrative offices.

“It allows for privacy with the door shut, but it allows for opening viewing of the entire office space,” Kneibel said. “An administrator is never alone with a student really for the safety of the administrator and the safety of the student.”

New doors have been installed in hallways to shut down two-thirds of the building in the evening hours or in the event of a security situation.

“It’s great when the schools can take your advice and follow the standards that are accepted,” Stewart said.

A Grand Rapids police officer also stopped by the school to tour the changes. The principal said the officer’s visit is another sign of the community effort that goes into school safety.

Kneibel said more changes are slated for West Catholic as the school works to raise more funds.

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