Creede Board of Education hosts school safety panel

CREEDE — With the start of school quickly approaching, the Creede School District Board of Education hosted a strategic meeting on July 19 to review some of the district’s policies pertaining to school safety, COVID and other pertinent policies that would affect the coming school year.

Creede Board of Education member Kara Brittain opened the discussion with a brief overview of a survey that went out to school staff, community members and families in June.

The two-question survey focused on how survey participants felt about school safety in the district. The first question was, “Do you believe the district is doing enough to protect students from emergencies or crisis?” and the second question was, “What could the district do to increase the security of students and staff?”

Ideas on how to improve school safety included as options in the survey and suggested by the school were things like hiring a full-time security officer, hiring additional mental health staff, and installing metal detectors to help protect students and staff.

Participants could also add to these suggested ideas in another section which generated more ways the community thought the school could do to improve safety and consisted of suggestions like, teaching and discussing the district’s emergency preparedness plan with students and staff, to update and use the district’s crisis plan and better training of staff on both plans throughout the year.

Some of the suggestions made by the public in the survey were out of the scope of the district’s ability to enforce but were noted in the survey results for future review should anything change. Most answers provided in the suggestion section of the survey had to do with practicing and teaching the already adopted policies and plans in place so that students and staff are well versed in responding to an emergency.

Mineral County Emergency Manager Terry Wetherill joined the discussion and spoke to the board about options on how they can improve safety in the school.

“In my opinion, Creede School District safety is multi-layered and it's multi-faceted. In each layer there is a number of different elements that need to be taken care of to make our school as safe as possible,” said Wetherill.

Wetherill explained that though the Creede community is perceived to be a safe place to live there were some easy, common-sense things that could be done to help protect students and the community should an event ever occur.

“The things I am going to recommend will help make students and staff feel empowered and ready to take charge of their own safety,” Wetherill said.

There are four steps to planning for an emergency: prevention, preparedness, the actual emergency or disaster and the response and recovery from the event. Wetherill said that the prevention is the act of decreasing the likelihood of an event, the preparedness limits the loss of life or impacts of the event, planning for the event itself will also minimize the impacts of a potential emergency and how entities, in this case the school, will respond to the event and finally planning for the recovery is how the school would bounce back after a potential emergency and how the district helps heal from the event.

Wetherill explained that a lot of the planning has already taken place between himself and the district’s staff so that much of the work has already been completed. Wetherill said the best thing a safety team that consisted of school staff, teachers and law enforcement officials could do would be to come in and talk to students about the realities of emergency situations and to prepare them for potential situations.

“We have all seen it. In all the active-shooter scenarios involving schools where everyone says afterwards that the perpetrator had shown signs prior to the incident,” Wetherill said. “We need an environment where we all communicate. We can then figure out which teacher connects with that student, which school resource officer connects with that student, which law enforcement officer connects with that student and then we can cut it off. We can get engaged, we can see what we can do for them before the emergency happens and we look back and see we could have done something.”

Wetherill said that though the school was well prepared as far as planning went, it was time now to put the plans into action as was pointed out in the recent survey.

The school will continue to work with Wetherill and local law enforcement to engage students and staff in the coming school year and will be releasing another survey in coming days to gain the community’s input on this discussion.