Watertown schools implement new safety system for visitor check-ins

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WATERTOWN — Gone are the days of signing in to buildings in the Watertown City School District with pen and paper.

Starting this school year, visitors will experience a new way of signing in and being vetted before being allowed to access the main parts of the schools.

The district now uses the Raptor Visitor Management System in all schools to strengthen campus safety for students and staff. Part of keeping students and staff safe is knowing who is in the buildings at all times, and the Raptor system will allow the district to do that more efficiently, according to district officials.

The new system will electronically sign in and sign out visitors, print visitor badges, screen everyone against the National Sex Offender Registry, and provide real-time offender alerts.

The Raptor system checks the visitor’s name and date of birth for comparison with a national database of registered sex offenders, the only official database checked by the Raptor system. No other data from the ID is gathered or recorded and the information is not shared with any outside agency. The Raptor system will also check for court-issued custodial orders, restraining orders and other custom alerts as established by the district.

“Toward the end of the school year, we had a person in that community that was 18, who would look like a high school student, that came into the high school and shouldn’t have been there,” said Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr. “I think it would prevent anyone that’s not supposed to be there but looks maybe like the age group. All of the contractors too, there’s a whole vetting process for that. If the system flags anything, someone gives information that pulls up a file of someone that isn’t them, staff are instructed what to do and there are systems in place for what to do next in terms of things like custody disputes.”

Mrs. LaBarr, who is retiring Aug. 31, said the district is going to start pushing messages out on ParentSquare about the Raptor system within the next week, and there is information about it on the district’s website along with the district safety plan.

When visitors approach a main entrance to the buildings, they’ll press the buzzer attached to an outdoor camera and will be asked why they are visiting. Upon answering, they’ll be buzzed in through an initial set of doors and enter a secure vestibule. Visitors will then be asked to present a photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport. The ID will either be scanned or manually entered into the system at a secure transaction window in the vestibule.

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