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Public helps Durango School District improve safety measures

Sincere thanks to the parents and community members who responded to our recent safety survey and participated in our safety forums.

This is an important topic, for which great concerns have been raised among all residents, given recent events across the nation. The reality is that the challenges of society do not stop at the schoolhouse door.

I remain of the belief that our schools are the safest locations within our community because of the implementation of the measures we have put in place over the past five years. Every school has a secured entry way, with the exception of the high school, which has a front entrance that is monitored by security staff. All schools use the Standard Response Protocol that ensures common language and the opportunity to practice procedures that have proved to save lives. In addition, our partnerships with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, the Durango Police Department, the Colorado State Patrol and the Durango Fire Protection District are essential to ensuring the safety of our students.

With feedback received in our most recent survey and safety forums, we will be increasing our efforts to further strengthen our safety measures. A new visitor system will be implemented at many schools to verify that visitors are not current offenders. The high school security team will be enhanced by the addition of a second monitoring kiosk at the West Wing door. Safety measures to ensure the integrity of campus windows will also be implemented to prevent shattering or allowing entrance to the building. A majority of the high school doors will become emergency exits by equipping them with alarms, thereby securing the building further.

Recently, an outside safety audit of all 9-R campuses was completed. While these reports will be kept confidential because of their sensitivity, many facility modifications will take place this summer designed to restrict breaching of classrooms and school buildings.

Probably, the largest security measure recommended by some community members was the closing of the high school campus. Of the parents responding to the survey, only 25 percent supported this measure, recognizing the impact it would have on the overall campus and the academic and extracurricular supports that would be negatively impacted. The student voice was especially important in helping to identify negative impacts and effective steps to enhance their feeling of safety.

I remind parents that you have the right to place restrictions on your students and keep them on campus. I have exercised that right and responsibility in the past with my own children, and I encourage your consideration of the same if you have concerns. Great lunches and awesome opportunities exist on campus during the lunch break.

I truly believe the best defense is a student body that takes personal responsibility for the safety of its school campus. If a stranger is seen, it should be reported. Likewise, if something concerning is heard, it should be reported Our staff and local law enforcement take all reports seriously and investigate them fully. Students are encouraged to build relationships with peers who seem ostracized or disconnected.

As funds are available, we will work with our local law enforcement agencies to expand our safety program, and we will be prioritizing capital construction projects that make our schools safer. We encourage parents and members of the community to continue to provide feedback. We are stronger together than we are as individuals.

Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at dsnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.