Scootney Springs Elementary School principal Gary Street and assistant principal Scott Raab gave a presentation on the way their school is ready to handle emergency situations involving potentially armed intruders during the Monday, March 25, school board meeting. Their presentation was similar to the one high school administrators gave at the previous meeting and involved discussion of lockdowns and the methods the school's staff would use to keep students safe. Street and Raab presented a number of scenarios they've planned for and explained most of them follow the same general guideline that directs staff to lock out, get out and-or take out intruders depending on a variety of factors. If an intruder is detected, Street said school staff would dial 911, announce a lockdown, notify the district of what's happening and ensure students are safe and accounted for in their classrooms with the doors locked. If a student is unaccounted for, teachers are asked to notify the office and using a combination of security cameras and walkie-talkies, would work to locate the student and ensure the student got to safety. If the situation presents enough danger to students and staff that they couldn't remain in their locked down classrooms, the staff is instructed to evacuate everyone from the school to a safe location (another school, to buses or an adjacent, safe area). Finally, if the option to evacuate isn't feasible, Raab and Street said recent research indicates it's better to try and incapacitate intruders rather than remain passive. If the intruder is in close proximity and presents an obvious danger to bystanders, Scootney staff members are directed to use whatever means necessary to take out the intruder and minimize the possibility of the person causing harm. The presenters also discussed other scenarios, including campus unrest, police activity and reports that a student had allegedly brought a gun to the school. In all cases, the school would follow the previously mentioned guidelines and put the school in lockdown. Director Juan Garza asked Street how often the school practices these techniques and he replied that in light of the Newtown tragedy, Scootney Springs would increase the frequency of their lockdown drills. President Rob Simmons said he was glad the school is working hard to be prepared and stressed the importance of keeping up with drills. While there's no state- mandated guideline on how often schools should be required to conduct drills, Street said they would continue to practice them often. In addition, superintendent George Juarez said he had met with Othello High School principal Carlos Gonzalez to create a list of suggestions to improve school safety and the board intends to discuss those ideas during the April 8 meeting starting at 7:30 p.m.
Update on district construction projects District facilities manager Mike Currie was happy to announce the new high school addition is complete and ready for staff to move in the week of the meeting. "By and large the contractor is leaving the premises," Currie said. Currie also updated the board on the progress of the new ALPS building and said although the construction crews were still active, the project is on schedule. Construction crews are waiting on a few final components, but Currie said they shouldn't have any problems installing them in time and expects staff to begin moving in by the third week of April. The recently approved project to remodel the school district office is expected to award a bid to a contractor by April 11 and Currie said if everything works out, should begin construction by April 21.
Superintendent's report and director discussions Superintendent George Juarez reported to the board he is still working with Lutacaga Elementary School principal Aurora Garza to implement the necessary steps to ensure the expansion of the Dual Language program in the school goes smoothly. Juarez presented the board with a checklist Garza created and announced the intention to create a committee that will include district staff and community members to oversee its implementation. Board members also discussed a new policy of awarding kids a student of the semester award. Director Tony Ashton proposed choosing one student from each grade level throughout the district to be recognized for making the most improvement throughout the semester in their assessments. The board will continue to discuss the idea in the future and said they would need to consider how best to gauge the improvements made fairly across all the schools and grade levels. The board will host a public forum at Othello High School, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. The board urges members of the public to attend and voice any concerns or questions they might have.