County schools to hire security project manager

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Routt County schools are looking to beef up school security plans in 2009 with the addition of a school security project manager.

The new position will be in charge of pulling together seven months of work by the School Safety and Security Task Force, which is a 20-member group of local school administrators, police and emergency management personnel.

The group was formed in an effort to meet regulations of Colorado Senate Resolution 181, a bill that requires emergency management plans for all public schools in the state.

Although the bill applies only to public schools, nearly all schools in the county are participating in the regular meetings of the group. Representatives from Christian Heritage School, The Lowell Whiteman School, Lowell Whiteman Primary School, Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus and several preschools have joined the Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs school district representatives.

Local law enforcement and emergency management agencies also have been working with the schools to create the emergency plans.

Tim Corrigan, task force member and president of the South Routt School Board, said the task force decided to hire a project manager for a six-month contract after task force members realized the workload would be more than each district could handle on its own. Having one person prepare all the emergency management guidelines also would be easier because of the amount of overlap between the schools, Corrigan said.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale agrees the manager is a good addition to the team to reduce the demand on busy school staff.

"One of the things I've learned about educational institutions is that they are all so busy trying to teach kids, they don't have a lot of extra time to do emergency preparations," he said.

Corrigan said he envisions the result of the manager's work to be a "red book" of emergency plans for each school. Those plans would be available to first responders in the event of an emergency.

"There would be a check-off list, individualized for every building in each of the school districts. And on that check-off list would be a described course of action for each of the responsible individuals on each of the schools crisis teams," Corrigan said.

The notebooks would contain evacuation procedures, locations of critical utility shut-off valves and master keys, fire assembly information, building access and a lockout plan.

Vale said the hardest part of the process was getting schools to consider the possibility of emergency situations.

"Once you start to get out of that box and think that through - that something could happen here - you get schools prepared," he said.

Because the mandate from the state is unfunded, the task force requested $30,000 from the Education Fund Board for the salary of the manager. The request will be discussed at the January meeting of the Fund Board.

Corrigan said the position likely would be filled in February with the goal of the work being completed by August.

The task force will begin advertising the position within the week, Corrigan said.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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