VACAVILLE, Calif. — With more school shootings happening each year, one charter school in Vacaville is taking no chances and is embracing technology in hopes of keeping its staff and students safe. The entire school has been equipped with Ring security cameras so everyone on campus knows who is trying to gain access.
Marivic Allender is a first-grade teacher at Kairos Public Schools. A majority of her time is spent teaching, but also making sure her students are safe. As of recently, keeping them safe has been a main focus of her job.
"Just like the last year, we've had so much training regarding, you know, when there's threats on campus intruders coming onto campus. I didn't have as many before, but I feel like just the last year, just been at this school, I feel like we've had so many of them, because of all the recent shootings that has been happening," she said.
With all of this extra training, Allender said there are many thoughts that cross her mind.
"I'm saddened by the fact that all these kids are getting hurt. I mean, I'm all for all the trainings that we receive, that we are receiving at our school, because I feel like we can't just rely, you know, on outside support anymore, that we have to be proactive," she said.
Within a week after the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Kairos implemented the Ring Cameras campus-wide. Jared Austin, CEO of Kairos, said that the shooting shocked him on many different levels.
"Our mission statement talks about utilizing technology thoughtfully. So we thought, when someone comes to our front door, we don't answer the door unless we know who's on the other side. We teach our kids that, so we have a little screen and they push the doorbell and the face pops up. 'You see it's the Amazon driver or UPS driver,' whoever it may be. We thought, how can we take that same concept into the school environment?" Austin said.
Kairos currently has thirty Ring Cameras and 30 Echo video devices. The school partnered with its Parent Advisory Council, which raised $5000 to purchase the devices. It's something Austin said he never envisioned he'd be doing, all while trying to run a school.
"When we started this school, our mission was to equip kids for changing generations and we looked at it from the academic side. No one ever thought that a huge focus would have to be on the safety and support of students," said Austin.
According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, there were 303 school shootings in 2022 in the United States and more than 100 school shootings so far this year.
With a majority of these shootings taking place within the parking lot, Kairos took no chances by requiring all visitors to check in with the front desk through a security camera buzz-in system.
Students like Madison Chapman believe stats like these are alarming. She said she can't help but think of the worst-case scenario with all of these precautions in place.
"We're always just talking about, like, what we would do if that were to happen here, like, where would we go? What would we put things in from the door? Would we take our backpacks with us? We just really like how to cope with it, be quiet lights out, don't go under the desk, just that kind of stuff," Chapman said.
For parents like Peter Stow, it's nerve-racking to drop their children off at school every day and trust they will return home. He said the threat and concern are always in the back of his mind.
"Seeing these improvements every year, I think we felt more and more safe. As these incidents continue to happen in our country, seeing how the school quickly responds and works with parents, and gets feedback to implement new things, honestly, it makes me proud to say that my kids go here because I see them responding quickly and implementing change quickly. Gives me that peace of mind that like they're thinking about my kids' safety. That's a really big deal," Stow said.
Even with all of these things in place, Austin said the main goal will always be the children and providing a safe place for them to learn.
"At the end of the day, we are feeling like the campus is safer, and we may never know how much of an impact it made. But what we do know, is that our kids are actually able to focus on the learning and that those distractions are being lessened because of the things that we've done," Austin said.
Teachers and staff at Kairos also have a tool on their phones that will allow them to alert other staff members if there is a credible threat on campus. They can do that by pushing a button on their phones.