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Schools boost security

Tim Mutrie

Aspen School District Superintendent Tom Farrell presented a new, multifaceted safety plan for all district schools to the School Board on Monday.

A night guard, who will monitor the school district campus after hours, seven days a week, is among the security measures that Farrell said come in response to the recent Columbine High School shooting spree.

Of the watchman, who assumed duty earlier this week, Farrell said, “I hope it’s nothing more than a clear message to the community that we’re taking security seriously.”

Before launching into a list of changes to boost security, Farrell asked, “Are we doing everything within our power to make sure that that never happens here?”

Farrell began by insisting that all district schools complete an updated floor plan, at the request of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Furthermore, he said all keys to the school buildings need to be accounted for, that teachers should turn in their keys at the close of each school year, and that staffers will be held accountable for securing buildings when they leave after hours.

“We want to make sure the school is secure at all times after hours and we’re going to have to be real serious about this,” Farrell said. He said the measures need to be instituted “immediately.”

Farrell also suggested the district look into keeping all school doors locked at all times, except front doors, and that students and staff gain access to their schools with ID cards.

“I’m not sure how strict we want to be about visitors,” Farrell admitted. “I don’t want to hamper the climate of the district.”

Farrell then said if the district goes to a strictly pedestrian and closed campus, which it has has plans to do, safety would improve. “When students leave the campus, you have no control,” he said.

The superintendent also said the school system needs to be more proactive in its contact with students. He suggested that school counselors need more support, that the popular experiential education programs need more emphasis, that the senior mentorship program for incoming freshmen be continued, and that the district consider assigning faculty advisers to every student to ensure a “positive experience.”

“I’d like to think that every teacher is a counselor,” he said.

Furthermore, Farrell said the district’s low student/teacher ratio needs to be retained, that teachers need to continue to talk to students about violence and how to prevent it, and that district staffers must take all threats seriously. “It’s not our job to determine which threats are a joke and which are not,” he said.

Of the safety plan, school board member Jon Seigle said, “I’m really encouraged by the emphasis on the proactive.”

“All things we do that we can do better, I’m for that,” said board member Alice Davis. “And I definitely agree that the low student/teacher ratio is important.”

Farrell said a memo he received from the executive director of the National School Safety Center in California prompted many of the changes at the Aspen campus. Copies of the school district safety plan will be distributed to all school board members and principals, he said.


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