Students flood through the front doors of Steamboat Springs High School after classes are dismissed on Wednesday afternoon. A school safety task force was formed Tuesday to coordinate preparedness plans for Routt County schools.

Photo by Brian Ray

Students flood through the front doors of Steamboat Springs High School after classes are dismissed on Wednesday afternoon. A school safety task force was formed Tuesday to coordinate preparedness plans for Routt County schools.

Safety task force formed

Group aimed at coordinating preparedness plans for schools

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— A new school safety task force aimed at coordinating preparedness plans for Routt County was formed Tuesday at a roundtable with school and law enforcement officials and the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

A pending piece of state legislation, Senate Bill 181, would require Colorado schools to adopt a response plan for school safety incidents that aligns with the National Incident Management System - a framework developed by the federal Department of Homeland Security. While most schools already have plans in place for such emergencies, the bill has prompted a closer look at county-wide coordination for school preparedness.

The task force aims to bring together officials from Routt County's three school districts, its private schools, Colorado Mountain College and all county law enforcement agencies.

Each school is familiar with its own plan, but no one has experience in trying to coordinate between districts, Hayden School District Superintendent Mike Luppes said.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has worked closely with the Steamboat Springs School District on its disaster and incident plans and keeps students and law enforcement officers on their toes with quarterly lock-down drills and annual training exercises at each campus, Capt. Joel Rae said.

The police department also has worked with the Routt County Sheriff's Office, because Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School are outside city limits and thus outside police jurisdiction, Rae said.

Any significant school event in Northwest Colorado, such as an active shooter incident, would have a regional response, Rae said. However, if Steamboat Springs police were called to assist at a large-scale incident elsewhere in Routt County, its officers would be in the dark.

"Lockdown procedures do not need to be the same from Oak Creek to Strawberry Park and Hayden, but they do need to be similar," Rae said.

Everyone knows what's going on in their district or their jurisdiction, but the connections in between are what's missing, and the new task force aims to fix that, County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

The problems facing the development of the task force primarily are cost and authority, Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said.

The county failed to win a grant to cover the cost of coordinating the effort and completing risk assessments, and the full-time employee the original draft of Senate Bill 181 called for has been eliminated, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

"The state of Colorado is saying this is going to cost them absolutely nothing - so we all know what that means," Stahoviak said.

The still-unnamed task force will be temporarily headed by Undersheriff David Bustos. At the suggestion of Steamboat Springs School District Interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser, public health officials also may be invited to join and weigh in on pandemic flu and disease outbreak scenarios.

Comments

justice4all 6 years, 9 months ago

My appreciation to all that are involved. This is an area in which we can not be too careful or too prepared. Our children and teaching staff are too precious to allow anything to happen that could be avoided. Thank to all for taking this very important measure.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 9 months ago

justice4all, I highly agree with you! This is a classic example of how the Fed will make unfunded mandates and hand them down to the states. Then, the state hands the mandates down to us at the local level, to figure out how to fund and deal with the issue. I think that's what Nancy was trying to elude to by saying; "The state of Colorado is saying this is going to cost them absolutely nothing - so we all know what that means." In my opinion, this is also a scenario that will give the government a data base to use for observing and acting proactively to troubled areas and keeping an eye on the people it governs, through an integrated system. We do a lot in the name of safety and security, even though it means we give up some of our rights. We live in a post 911 world and things have changed!

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