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El Paso County Colorado District 49

School starts; safety measures continue

Students are heading back to the classroom in Falcon School District 49, but Dave Watson has been working throughout the summer to update and revise the districtís safety and emergency operating plans.ìEvery year, we review our standing security or safety procedures,î said Watson, the safety and emergency coordinator. ìI take a look at those and make any necessary revisions or updates,î he said. He also reviews and makes necessary changes to emergency operationsí plans. ìWeíve done some updating with some of our procedures to make it easier for our teachers in the classroom to understand them,î he added.Watson said one of the tools the district is using is the Standard Response Protocol from the I Love U Guys Foundation ñ initiated after the school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., in 2009. ìThe father of a victim (Emily Keyes) came up with a standardized procedure so that emergency personnel would understand you and know what it means,î he said.At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Vista Ridge High School in Falcon received two bomb threats; the school was evacuated both times, Watson said. ìThose evacuations have made me look at different procedures,î he said. ìWe have school plans in place for a reason, and you can have the best-laid plans but it always seems like something comes up where thereís a snag.îThe original evacuation plan sent students and faculty to another high school outside of the innovation zone, Watson said. Instead, the students were bused to Skyview Middle School. ìWe were able to get the students evacuated quicker because of the shorter distance (from Vista Ridge),î he said. ìIt seems to run a lot smoother when the reunification (students and parents) was occurring within the same zone.îOverall, the evacuations went well and the required procedural safeguards were taken before the school was given the ìall-clear noticeî after the threats, Watson said. ìWe took the proper steps and had bomb dogs out there both times the thorough searches were done,î he said. ìIt helped us make revisions to our bomb threat procedures.ìVista Ridge staff was able to get bomb threat training from the Colorado Springs Police Department.î Watson said the CSPD plans to provide training to other staff members in the district.D 49 currently has four safety resource officers, two of whom are supplied by the El Paso County Sheriffís Office, Watson said. The three full-time SROs are stationed at the three district high schools and also patrol the other schools within their zones; the part-time SRO is at Horizon Middle School.ìWe are very grateful that Sheriff (Terry) Maketa and the sheriffís office are providing us with the part-time SRO and the Falcon SRO,î Watson said. ìWe feel we have sufficient coverage at this time so weíre not going to be asking for any additional SROs. They do a wonderful job, and theyíre always available.îWatson said other safety precautions will be taken throughout the new school year. ìWe want to do some awareness training for the students in the district about the dangers of opening the doors for people when the doors are locked,î he said. ìMost schools are on a secured perimeter where they (visitors) have to buzz to get in. We want students to tell them to go around to the front.îOther safety training opportunities, like student mentoring through Safe2Tell, are available as well, Watson said. But he added that it is necessary to find the right balance between safety training and ìcritical (classroom) instruction time.î ìWeíre excited for this upcoming 2013-2014 school year and working in a partnership not only to educate the students but to keep them safe,î Watson said. ìWe ask the community to please be mindful of those procedures so we can work together.î

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