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Community explores safety at Durango High School

Additional security officers, closed campus discussed

A new security system, additional security officers and a closed campus were among a slew of ideas that Durango High School staff members, students and parents explored during an open forum Thursday focused on the school’s security.

“I think we do pretty well, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do better,” DHS Principal Jon Hoerl said.

The meeting attracted about 125 parents, students and community members who were polled on some measures the school could take to improve safety. The same questions will be emailed to parents of current and future students this month, 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said. He expects some new safety measures could be in place by summer.

The high school is considering installing ballistic film on windows to prevent bullets or projectiles from coming through, limiting the number of doors used as exits in regular use and adding a fourth security staff member, Hoerl said.

The high school has 54 exterior doors, and it’s possible that all but 10 could be turned into emergency exits, he said.

The school is also weighing a visitor security system that could use state-issued IDs to screen visitors for felonies or other serious criminal history, he said.

Tim Maher of Parents for Safer Schools says his group would like to see a police officer at every school.

Parents for Safer Schools representative Tim Maher said his group would like to see a police officer at every school in the district and a closed high school campus because students are not safe and accounted for during lunch.

“Nothing is a 100 percent. ... All we can do is maybe make the odds better in our favor,” he said.

He also floated the idea of installing metal detectors at the high school.

Closing campus would require a schedule change and creative ideas about where students would spend their lunch periods because cafeteria seating is limited, Hoerl said.

Some students questioned the practicality of making more than 1,000 students go through metal detectors each morning.

Durango High School Principal Jon Hoerl, speaks in the auditorium during a school safety forum Thursday evening focusing on school security. He summarized existing security measures at the school and presented options to increase security.

“An open campus implies the idea of trust,” Reiter said. “It would be difficult to sacrifice that trust.”

A survey of 69 teachers found about 70 percent did not support metal detectors. Only about 4 percent supported a completely closed campus, said Deb Medenwaldt, an academic adviser.

Teachers were split on whether the campus should be closed to certain grades or open for everyone, she said. About a third supported closing the campus for freshman, 30 percent supported closing it to freshman and sophomores and about a third supported an open campus for all students.

Teachers use lunch periods to help students with classwork and sponsor clubs. That would be tougher if lunch periods were staggered, she said.

Attendees were largely against closing the campus, installing metal detectors and arming staff members. But broad support came for installing ballistic film, limiting the number of regularly used exits and a bond measure to fund security improvements.

Funding could come from state grants or donations, Snowberger said. But he cautioned new measures could result in cuts to other areas.

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