Guest commentary: Safety a top priority at Aspen schools
Last week’s horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has not only gripped our nation but has sent shockwaves throughout our local community. Our Aspen School District administrators, board, teachers and staff mourn the tragic and senseless loss of 19 innocent children and two beloved teachers. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families as they process this unthinkable violent massacre.
Many of you have expressed your sorrow and dismay to us. This latest incident has hit all of us very hard, particularly in light of other mass shootings that our nation has experienced in recent years. Incomprehensibly, since 2000, there have been more than 600 shootings resulting in death or injury at elementary and secondary schools around the country.
More than ever, it is important for us to come together in our grief to support each other and to focus on moving forward in a constructive manner. As always, the safety and well-being of our students must be our top priority. As parents and educators, we all share the same pain and stress, and we worry more than ever about the safety of our own children and students.
Sadly, this is not a new worry, and we cannot labor under the assumption that Aspen is somehow immune from these risks. When it comes to safety and security concerns across our campus, ASD has been laser-focused on this issue for a very long time. In fact, in 2020, the community resoundingly supported a bond referendum that allocates significant funding for many necessary facility upgrades, including security infrastructure.
We have detailed and comprehensive plans in place for every known safety contingency, developed with the aid and expertise of outside security consultants, to assure that our plans and readiness are state-of-the-art and optimized for successful outcomes. We spare no effort or expense in this regard.
Below are just a few examples of the current protocols in place to address safety and security measures on campus and in the schools. Further enhancements are scheduled to be completed this summer.
— School resource officers (SROs) are located in each school building. These law enforcement officers are armed and active members of the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
— Schools have increased the use of drills with students, teachers and staff. The drills assist everyone in knowing what to do in a variety of crisis situations. The drills include lockouts, lockdowns, evacuations and shelters.
— The Aspen School District requires all employees to wear photo ID badges while on campus. First responders need to know who belongs and who doesn’t belong on campus in a time of crisis.
— Schools require all visitors to check in at the front office. A new identification system has been implemented in all the schools that provides immediate feedback if the person visiting could be a potential risk to the school.
— Established teams address safety and security issues: The district-wide Safety Committee and the School Crisis Teams meet regularly to review and recommend updates to the crisis management plans/emergency management plans in order to maintain safety and security throughout our schools and campus.
— It is the goal of the district that all of our staff be trained in first aid and CPR. While that requirement was paused during COVID due to social distancing protocols, we expect to be in full compliance.
— At the recommendation of law enforcement, the district has added security cameras to the campus and schools in order to provide a more protected and safe learning environment.
— School doors are routinely checked, and access to outsiders is restricted to certain entry points.
— Regular ongoing trainings are provided for teachers and staff consistent with standard response protocols to prepare them to deal with a potential crisis situation.
We care deeply about the health and wellness of each of our students, staff, and families — both physically and emotionally. We are cognizant of the need for enhanced mental health services to support our community whether it be to deal with the grief of mass shootings or the struggles and challenges that many of us contend with in our everyday lives. In addition to our experienced in-house counselors and psychologists, multiple community resources are available to us, including but not limited to:
— Aspen Family Connections, https://www.aspenfamilyconnections.org
—Aspen Hope Center, https://www.aspenhopecenter.org
— Aspen Strong, https://aspenstrong.org
— Mind Springs Health, https://www.mindspringshealth.org
Even with the best safety and security protocols in place, we still need to rely on you and our community at large to be observant and watchful. In that regard, we want to remind you of a critical resource already in place: Safe2Tell — https://safe2tell.org.
You can anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your family, or our schools, 24/7, online, or by phone at 877-542-7233. Law enforcement and school officials will be instantly alerted to your report so that they can take appropriate immediate action.
It’s an understatement to say that the past few years have presented us with unprecedented challenges and hardships. Our unique, caring community has bonded together and more than proven its ability to be resilient and mutually supportive. We are asking you to continue this critical partnership with ASD as we remain vigilant and resolute in protecting our most valuable asset — our children.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either one of us if you have any questions or suggestions.
Assistant superintendent, email@example.com