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January 31, 2013
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Local school safety procedures under review

Area school districts are in the process of reviewing school safety procedures, partly in response to the tragic school shootings in Connecticut in December, but also as a matter of routine.

"We're always looking at school safety, but situations like Sandy Hook always make you look a little more closely at what you're doing," said Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services for the Garfield School District Re-2.

School officials nationwide reacted with similar safety reviews after the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 students and six adults.

Since that time, administrators in both Re-2, which includes public schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle, and the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 have been actively reviewing their safety plans.

Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko has been meeting with police officials in the three communities served by the district, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, doing school walk-throughs and taking recommendations on how to beef up security.

"We're going through each building looking at our priority lists, checking locks and going over lock-down and evacuation procedures and the other components of our school safety plans," Sirko said.

She said some schools have also been doing lock-down drills, reviewing each step with teachers, staff and students, Sirko said.

"There are a lot of different schools of thought when it comes to safety in school, and some of those thoughts change over time," she said. "We're always rethinking things and updating our plans with any new thoughts."

Any time there is a known or even a perceived danger in the vicinity of a school, law enforcement may request that the school be placed in lockout or locked-down mode.

"This means that any access to the school will be monitored or prohibited and students are required to remain inside the building," according to the RFSD Re-1 school safety plan, which is posted on the district website [www.rfsd.k12.co.us/school-safety/].

Just before the holiday break in December, Garfield Re-2's Coal Ridge High School went into lock-down mode when a vehicle that had been reported stolen was found abandoned in the school parking lot.

The school remained in lock-down until law enforcement checked out the situation and eventually cleared the area.

Hamilton said the district has implemented numerous safety measures over the years to limit access into school buildings, and to monitor each person who enters.

Most Re-2 schools have a double set of doors with a vestibule that funnels all entry into the building through the front office during school hours. All visitors are required to check in at the office before proceeding.

In addition to a security camera system, the district is exploring others means of improving communication within schools and enhancing safety measures, not only in schools but on school buses as well, Hamilton said.

Some of those options are to be presented to the Re-2 school board in February, she said.

The Re-1 school board has also asked for regular school safety updates.

"The board went through a similar process of reviewing safety procedures two years ago," Re-1 board President Matt Hamilton said after a recent board discussion.

"Whenever there's a situation like Sandy Hook, it's always an opportunity to look at our safety practices and ways to make sure kids in all of our communities are as safe as they can be," he said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 31, 2013 01:10AM Published Jan 31, 2013 01:08AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.