Aspen schools superindent: A note of thanks and what we have learned  |

Aspen schools superindent: A note of thanks and what we have learned 

Superintendent of Aspen School District
David Baugh

I can’t thank our first responders and Aspen School District educators enough for their response and professionalism to what was arguably two domestic terror attacks on our campus in the past two weeks.

By now, you know our staff and school resource officers reacted quickly, and within one minute after a threat was made on one of our schools, the campus was locked down.

Pitkin County Sheriff Michael Buglione reported that 27 law-enforcement officers rushed to campus. They were joined by Snowmass, Basalt, and Colorado State Patrol officers. Numerous ambulances, fire trucks, and many personnel responded quickly. There were dedicated emergency dispatchers assigned to the threat, and Aspen City Manager Sara Ott and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock also immediately began assisting with the complex issues of lockdowns and student reunification with families.

We regularly practice evacuations and school lockdowns with our school resource officers and law enforcement. We know what to do. But the one thing you cannot practice is the overwhelming fear and anger that consume you in what was initially considered a very real threat. While it was eventually described as a hoax — and one that has been inflicted on numerous schools and districts across the state and country — at the time, it was real, and it was very wrong.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, we encountered a situation that most, though not all, have only read about. That day was scary. Our first responders moved quickly and without hesitation. Our teachers and staff, too, moved fast and effectively. The level of expertise was impressive and also reassuring. For many of them, they took care of other people’s children while they worried about their own. They have our gratitude.

Moving forward, we have learned much and implemented much. In the district, we regularly run a problem-solving process we call short-term, mid-term, and long-term solution analysis.

In the short-term, we are upgrading all doors and cameras to make our schools even more secure. We have added several parents to our safety committee to capture their expertise, and we look forward to working with them. We are running a number of training and practice sessions for staff using new technology that came online for most of the district in February.

In the mid-term, we are expecting to have much tighter access to rooms and schools with a modern system that allows us to track access and deny access, as appropriate. 

In the long-term, with law enforcement’s help, we will continue to revise and evaluate safety protocols, communication practices, and platforms to keep our community as informed and safe as possible.

What we are striving for is to make our school community as safe as possible and as good a place to be a kid, and colleague, as possible. We don’t know why people would think threatening kids is OK — there are several theories as to why they might do that. We do know that if we let them tear us apart as a community, if we live in fear, they are winning, and that is also not OK.

Thank you to parents and guardians, too. It may well have been the most frightening hours of your lives. Your patience and grace helped us ensure the safety of your children and then evacuate all the schools safely and without injury. And the next week, we were able to communicate quickly and return to teaching and learning. We want to reassure you we will not grow complacent. 

We  ask for your help — please say something if you see something. Don’t hesitate to use Safe2Tell or 911 if something does not look right. It takes a community to keep schools safe.

We want to remind all our families and staff that they can review our standard response protocol here ( and learn more about how we take action in an emergency.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, we returned to maybe the most important job in the country: educating and supporting our children — our students — so that they can take their places in the world.  

Our students need all of us more than ever, and that’s a heavy responsibility. We realize that. If you or your children need help, know that we have a drop in clinic on Tuesday afternoons at Aspen Middle School between 5-7 p.m., and you can contact Allie Ehlers at (970) 920-5555 (office), (970)531-6013 (cell), and (email) to schedule with Mind Springs.

This is a journey for all of us. We are in it together. We will get through it together. Thank you again for all you have done these weeks, your calmness, professionalism, and your compassion are recognized and appreciated. We truly thank you for all you did,  and will do, in the days ahead.  

David Baugh is superintendent of Aspen School District. Reach him at