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Parents, school officials cross wires on school-safety meeting

Parents for Safer Schools may hold its own panel on issue
TJ Wilson runs wiring through front doors at Needham Elementary School to prepare for the installation of buzz-in locks. The systems were put in place in August 2016. Durango School District 9-R plans to hold a second school security forum at Durango High School on April 5.

Parents concerned about school safety crossed wires with Durango School District officials, with both taking leadership roles in organizing the same panel.

A passionate desire to move quickly to upgrade safety and security at Durango schools led a parent group to organize a panel to discuss school safety April 5 at Durango High School, but officials from the school district were already forming a panel of their own for the event.

The miscommunication has left some hard feelings among members of the parent’s group, Parents for Safer Schools, which has organized to offer ideas on school safety and to assist in fundraising to provide greater security at Durango schools.

“If community input is excluded, we’ll have to explore other grass-roots effort to contact the school board to make our voices heard,” said Tim Maher, a member of Parents for Safer Schools.

The parents planned to bring in Pete Chavez, the developer of a scan card identification system called SSICA from California for the panel discussion. The system tracks students as they enter and leave school buildings and warns about people who are not allowed on school grounds.

School district Superintendent Dan Snowberger said the event set for April 5 would be one of several discussions about school safety, and he said he would extend an offer to Parents for Safer Schools to use a 9-R building to have its own panel discussion.

Maher said he has requested that a member of the Parents for Safer Schools be allowed to be on the April 5 panel.

Snowberger said Tuesday it is premature to invite Chavez or to examine his system or any single device or safety enhancement before developing a plan to upgrade school security with community involvement.

“We want to brainstorm. There are many ideas out there, and it’s not just one group,” Snowberger said.

He said he would prefer to survey ideas, poll parents on what they would like to add to 9-R’s security measures, allow the students to weigh in, and then come up with a safety and security plan based on community input.

Maher insisted on some urgency in a telephone interview.

“This is a time for action and not complacency,” he said. “We’re not looking for forum after forum and different consulting studies. It’s time for some action to be taken.”

Laura Bohachevsky, another parent with Parents for Safer Schools, said she would be willing to take up Snowberger’s offer to use 9-R facilities on April 6 or as soon after the April 5 forum as possible.

“We just want to get the wheels moving. I don’t want too wait too long,” she said.

She also noted Chavez was willing to come to Durango on his own and without any assurance that 9-R would purchase his system, which Bohachevsky said would cost $7.50 per student and would be computer compatible with 9-R’s existing computers.

“He was willing to come for free, on his own dime. I felt it was a no-brainer,” she said.

In a Parents for Safer School meeting held Tuesday at the Durango Public Library, Kathy Morris, 9-R coordinator of safety and security, told parents the school district has contracted with Isaiah Systems, a safety and security consulting firm, to conduct a vulnerability audit of all 12 district schools.

Teams from Isaiah Systems will be in Durango conducting audits at all schools from Thursday through Saturday, Morris said.

Snowberger said he hoped to have results of the audit in several weeks.

“There are so many initiatives out there. So at this point, we need to assess where we’re at. They are going to come in and examine all the school safety and school security measures and point out things we should be doing and things we’re doing right,” Morris said.

The audits would include critiques of school floor plans and examine aerial maps in relationship to the surrounding neighborhoods, for example, it would examine security vulnerabilities tied to easy access to schools from major highways.

The audits, which cost the district $4,000, would also examine existing security procedures, examine access points in and out of schools, access playground security, and look at security on school buses.

Morris said school safety is an emotional issue, and she believes the strong desire to help and move forward is what led to miscommunication about the school safety panel for April 5.

“We’re all working in the same direction, and we all wanted to get something done, like, by yesterday,” she said.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

If you go

A panel discussion and open forum examining school security and safety at Durango High School will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 5 at Durango High School.

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