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      Improved security at Hamilton Jr/Sr High School

      Chief Bell says that having centralized locations and only one entrance will make it easier for his officers to assess and react if a serious problem should arise at the school.

      Over the last few years school security has become a hot button topic.

      Most of the time the story has to do with what happens after a tragedy.

      But in Hamilton Illinois, the school district and law enforcement have worked together to increase security now, in the hopes of preventing a tragedy in the future.

      It's not as easy as it used to be to get into Hamilton Jr/Sr. High School .

      And that's good news for first year principal Shelli Jennings.

      Before this year, the main office was centrally located in the middle of the building.

      "Which then left doors unlocked so that parents could come in and check in at the main office," Jennings said. "Which then meant that just about anybody could have access to the entire building before anyone at the office was aware."

      So Hamilton Police Chief Robb Bell along with the Hancock County Sheriff and the School superintendent came up with game plan to improve security.

      One of biggest changes was to restrict the students to one entry door and to build a new office just inside that entrance.

      "One way in, one way out," Bell said. "And it's easy for us to come in. It's great communication skills we have with the administration here that they know what door we're going to be coming in at anytime."

      All of the students are required to meet in the same gymnasium at the start of the day and are dismissed to classes from there.

      The school also has a closed lunch period.

      But it was quite different just a few years ago.

      "After students ate lunch in the cafeteria they were allowed to go out into the hall to talk," Jennings said. "I believe it was also a time where some of the students then left to maybe go off campus for lunch and maybe were gone longer than they should."

      Parents are also adapting to the changes.

      "I feel like we live in a very secure district but on the other hand you never know," parent Judy Graham said. "And so it's very comforting as a parent to know that school is taking steps to protect not only my child but other children, too. And that they're thinking ahead and not waiting and reacting afterward."

      Principal Jennings says the school has tied this new focus on security with it's classroom emphasis on "Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe".

      "I don't know that using a banner that say that we're gonna do everything that we can to keep your kids safe is any better banner that you can march behind," she said.

      Chief Bell says that having centralized locations and only one entrance will make it easier for his officers to assess and react if a serious problem should arise at the school.