As the board is well aware, school safety is paramount on everyone's minds these days. Additionally, as the board is aware, we are working to make sure our buildings, given their age and layout, are as secure as they can be.
As a reminder, in the spring of 2016, the board approved a facilities study through a contract with RTA Architects. A team of engineers and architects toured the Pagosa Springs schools and identified areas that needed to be addressed. Safe access to our buildings was one of the areas that was examined and found lacking.
In early 2017, we put together a committee of community volunteers, who have been working diligently since then, to identify and address all the needs in our schools. The work of this committee has led to the submittal of three BEST grants, totaling almost $15 million. If awarded, these funds will be used to address the safe and secure access to both the middle and high schools and go towards the construction of a new, secure elementary school.
In the meantime, Technology Director Jesse Morehouse has procured a gently used buzzer system from a neighboring district. Jesse is working to install the system as a temporary controlled entrance at the high school. If this works, we will be trying to do the same thing at the main entrances at the middle and elementary schools. Keep in mind, this is a temporary solution and will not truly secure all entrances to the schools but will allow controlled access to the main entrances.
Emergency Operations Plan 2017- 2020
As with all districts in Southwest Colorado, our district follows the protocols developed by the BOCES Safety Director. Among others, these include procedures for active gunman, assault threat on campus, bomb threat, death of a student or staff member, fire/arson drill/evacuation, to name just a few. Also included are protocols to determine whether or not a student is a threat to themselves or others.
A threat assessment is done for any number of reasons, and they are conducted by a team that is identified at each school. All schools are required to conduct monthly safety drills, including fire drills, lockdown drills or lockout drills. These drills are often monitored and supported by law enforcement.
Drills are often not announced nor known by staff, as to simulate real situations. As an example, recently during a lockdown drill at one of the schools, the fire alarm was intentionally set off. Staff reacted just as we hoped they would and kept children secure in the buildings, rather than exit the building.
Staff also worked with law enforcement and conducted tabletop exercises, where they examined a variety of scenarios and discussed how best to respond to the scenarios and what steps need to be reviewed, altered or eliminated.
Well over 100 security cameras have been installed in all of the school buildings. Those cameras are accessible by the police and sheriff and are monitored in accordance with all laws and regulations.
Principals, assistant principals and myself, as well as the chief and sheriff, have access on our phones and can monitor almost all parts of the buildings at any time from any place. We are working on procuring exterior cameras through e-rate funding and will be installing those as soon as they arrive.
The American School Counselor Association recommends that counselors work with 250 students each. Through intentional grant writing, our district is fortunate to have three counselors at each of our school. While those counselors have different functions and responsibilities, the average counselor student case load is significantly lower than what is recommended.
These counselors work with individual students and small groups, depending upon the need. They intervene with students who are experiencing trauma and social emotional issues. They also provide support to teachers as they work with their classes in a variety of different pro social programs.
School Resource Officers:
The school district contracts with the Pagosa Springs Police Department and the Archuleta County Sheriffs Department to have off-duty, uniformed officers on duty in the schools on an unpredictable random basis. In the 2016-2017 school year, officers were at the schools 145 times, for an average of between 4 - 6 hours. Since the beginning of September this school year, they have visited the schools 87 times through February 27th. The amount of time spent is similar to the previous year.