Durango School District 9-R plans to hold town halls this year to hear from parents, students, community members and others about possible security measures, including arming security guards.
The district is tightening security this year, installing surveillance cameras, putting ballistic film on windows, improving radio communications and training staff members to handle emergencies. Many of the measures are grant-funded.
But Kathy Morris, the district’s director of safety and security, said she is looking for answers to the question: “What is it people need and want to feel assured that our campuses are safe and secure?”
Across the district, residents are divided about the need for armed security guards, said 9-R Board President Nancy Stubbs.
“The board is really holding steady to being open-minded, listening to both sides,” she said.
However, the district does not plan to arm teachers or administrators; it would arm security officers who have received weapons training.
School board member Stephanie Moran said that if guards are armed, she prefers that they have experience as law enforcement officers in a town with a comparable population to Durango’s.
The district has not set a timeline for a decision about whether to arm security guards or made a schedule of public outreach events, Stubbs said. But public outreach events will be a focus for the board until a decision is made, she said.
“I think we need to expedite it, while we make it thorough,” Stubbs said.
School security projects will continue while the district seeks feedback. Many new security features were grant-funded and recommended by Isaiah Systems, a security company based in Castle Rock.
Video surveillance cameras are going into all district schools to monitor common areas such as hallways and entrances. The footage will be livestreamed on the web to allow school officials and law enforcement to spot emergencies, Morris said. The footage will not be open to the public.
Camera installation projects are underway at Needham Elementary School and Escalante and Miller middle schools, she said. The projects could be finished during the fall semester.
Ballistic film to keep windows from shattering has been applied to the front entrances of schools, some exterior windows and windows in or next to classroom doors facing hallways, Morris said. The film won’t stop a bullet, but it would change its trajectory, she said.
The district also has received a grant for software that will allow district radios to be patched through to law enforcement radios during an emergency, Morris said.
The district also has $88,000 to train students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members about how to respond to emergencies, she said.
“We can put all kinds of bells and whistles up – metal detectors at the door – but if the people in the building don’t know what to do, you are still very vulnerable,” Morris said. “So for me, it’s just building that staff and student resiliency.”