Security upgrades on RFSD radar
The unthinkable has become commonplace.
Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the United States has experienced another 262 incidents, according to an estimate compiled by Westword in the wake of the shooting at Umpqua College in Oregon.
It’s not something people like to talk about, perhaps out of fear that the dialogue could be taken as a sign of weakness, or a challenge, or an attempt to politicize a sensitive issue.
It doesn’t get its own category in Roaring Fork School District’s plan to issue $122 million worth of bonds pending a vote Nov. 3, but it’s a component of the proposed improvements at every school in the district.
“When you see something like that happen, it hits you to your core,” superintendent Diana Sirko said. “One of our primary responsibilities is safety and security. It keeps you up at night.”
Sirko is the first to admit that no security measure is foolproof.
“Some things you just cannot predict,” she said. “That’s what makes it so hard. But you don’t want to feel that you had an opportunity to improve security and didn’t take it.”
The district has some ideas on how to do that, parts of which will likely be implemented with or without the bond.
Foremost are plans to better route traffic through the main office of each building.
“We’ve looked at every entry,” chief operating officer Jeff Gatlin said. “We felt like we’ve come up with a nice solution at each school using existing infrastructure.”
That would go hand in hand with security improvements at secondary entrances, including the potential for a key card access system.
Some security elements may prove a minor annoyance for students, staff or visitors, but Gatlin emphasized the need for balance.
“We still want our schools to feel like a welcoming place in our community,” he said. “People get it. You don’t get much pushback.”
Other potential upgrades also have impacts on security. Several schools are also slated for intercom upgrades, which can be an important tool in the event of an emergency. Efficient and effective heating and cooling is essential for lock-in and lock-out techniques to be viable.
“We’re looking at everything from architecture to emergency communication systems to make sure they’re as safe as they possibly can be,” Gatlin said.
Outside of improvements related to the bond, the district also invests in training and safety planning, with assistance from local police departments.
“We have a tremendous relationships with law enforcement,” Sirko said. “We try to learn and adapt from each incident to prevent it from happening here.”
For Glenwood Springs school resource officer Chris Dietrich, there’s a lot more to consider than just the worst case scenario.
“Most of my job is not preparing for an active shooter,” he said. “The main purpose is to be a resource for the kids.”
In Glenwood Springs, lockouts are most likely to be a reaction to a bear or mountain lion sighting, or because of criminal activity nearby. Security cameras have led to suspects in several school break-ins over the years, and enhanced security also helps prevent kids from getting lost or hurt and keeps conflict in a controlled environment.
“It’s not always to keep the bad guys out,” Dietrich said. “It’s just to keep good track of what’s going on inside.”
And while you can’t plan for every worst case scenario, it pays to think ahead.
“As much as we all hope and pray that it never happens here, it is a reality that’s out there,” Dietrich said.
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The Roaring Fork Schools have announced two new district staff changes this summer as the 2021-22 school year approaches.