Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

SVVSD ups school safety


December 18, 2019

Nothing came of last week's bomb threat at Niwot High School, except the arrest of a student believed to be responsible.

Nothing, but rattled nerves and the question, when will this fear of school-based violence end?

In the last 15 months, the Saint Vrain Valley School District held 24 meetings to solicit community input on our local education system. Understandably, one of the most pressing subjects was school safety.

"This is a touchy subject, it's scary," said Paula Peairs, vice-president of the school board.

The seven-member SVVSD school board got an update on recent efforts to improve student safety at their most recent monthly meeting, held Dec. 11.

The law enforcement officers who monitor school safety are called School Resource Officers (SROs). This year, several SROs were added to regional police offices--two in Erie, one in Frederick, and one in the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. The latter services Niwot High School, but also supports Lyons Middle/Senior and Niwot, Lyons, and Hygiene Elementary schools.

The Longmont Police Department also added two SROs for Longmont and Silver Creek High and two for Skyline High, the CDC, and Olde Columbine High. Two final SROs will be added in January 2020 to provide coverage for Longmont middle schools.

The district also upped security resources for large school events. Students are required to leave backpacks behind, and security officers conduct bag checks on adults in attendance. The district also added a new "Hold" practice to its repertoire of emergency responses. This protocol requires teachers to hold students in class when a dangerous situation arises in one of the common areas.

The district also is focusing on enhancing its safety training. Campus supervisors participated in training for the Stop the Bleed program, which encourages by-standers to intervene to stop bleeding. District staff participated in various safety-related training courses, including the Claire Davis Act requirements, mandatory child abuse and neglect, Title IX, emergency preparedness, response and recovery issues, and threat assessments.

The district is using grant money to make some necessary infrastructural changes as well. Each school will receive two lockable boxes with keys and maps for quick access during an emergency. It also is improving school-wide emergency notification systems. In some classrooms, for example band and PE, where notifications are difficult to hear, flashing lights will alert students and staff to an emergency. The district is also replacing 600 locks on classroom doors so that teachers can lock them from the inside. Other projects include upgrading security cameras and adding lock-down blinds to Niwot and Hygiene Elementary schools.

Mitigation is part of the effort, but so is prevention. The district hired an additional counselor for each school and took on 20 new interventionists to support students with social and emotional challenges. The decision to take on interventionists in-house rather than to contract them was controversial, but according to Don Haddad, superintendent of SVVSD, it has been very positive. Communication is clearer and more efficient in house, and data gets processed in time to act on it.

The school district works hard to monitor the behavior of students and redirect problematic behavior before it escalates. The consequences of disruptive behavior include classroom removal, suspension, and expulsion, but the district has not resorted to expulsion in the past two years. The district is also working to make Safe2Tell programs more effective.

As board member Richard Martyr pointed out, the greatest challenge is to keep students safe while continuing to Cultivate a positive school culture. "We have to do it well, but stay focused on the learning environment."

Learn more about the district's safety measures by watching the Dec. 11 SVVSD Board of Education Meeting: https://vimeo.com/svvsd.


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