Steamboat school board members discuss sheriff’s armed marshals proposal | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat school board members discuss sheriff’s armed marshals proposal

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mental health, armed marshals and building improvements were just a few of the topics discussed Wednesday as Steamboat Springs school officials continue to look at ways to keep their students safe.

The five members of the school board held a meeting over the lunch hour to discuss school safety. It was attended by about a dozen members of the public, and the school board did not take public comment.

"As a board, we can't change different parts of the (U.S.) Constitution, so that's not a conversation we should be having," School Board President Joey Andrew said at the beginning of the meeting, alluding to the heightened gun control debate occurring at the national level after the Feb. 14 school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida.

In response to that shooting, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins proposed putting an armed marshal in each of the 11 public schools at an annual estimated cost of more than $1.26 million.

It was the first opportunity the school board had to discuss the marshal proposal, and no one clearly voiced their opposition or support.

"There were so many failures in Parkland, Florida," Mayling Simpson said. "We would have to ask ourselves would we fail in the same way?"

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Margaret Huron said there may be variations of the armed marshal proposal that could be successful.

"But, how do you not make it militarized?" Andrew responded.

Katy Lee had similar concerns.

"I want to do as much as we can to keep the kids safe without it costing the kids too much mentally," she said.

Huron said there would be an opportunity cost for implementing a marshal program because the money could instead go to more counseling and mental health resources.

"Those are the types of things we have to weigh before we make any decisions," Huron said. "What are we willing to give up in order to do this?"

Superintendent Brad Meeks said he has received some feedback about the armed marshal proposal.

"It's safe to say I'm hearing both sides," Meeks said.

The school board also discussed what physical changes could be made to existing school buildings to make them more safe.

Andrew said those conversations came to the forefront after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 as Steamboat had just finished expanding its high school.

"There was a frank conversation of, 'Do we board up all the windows and make this more of a castle?'" Andrew said.

School administrators shared their biggest security concerns with board members and focused on improvements that could be made to make buildings more secure.

"It's something that is talked about frequently in the district, especially when national events happen," Meeks said.

According to Meeks, school district campuses are currently equipped with about 290 security cameras. There are plans to add another 50 cameras and replace the existing cameras so they can capture high-definition video.

At the high school, improvements have been made at the entrance to restrict access.

"The key to that is just having someone stationed there," Principal Kevin Taulman said.

Other building administrators said improvements need to be made to school speaker systems and intercoms.

District maintenance director Pascal Ginesta said more could be done to train the district's 300-plus staff members and other people who use the buildings.

"I think more of our focus is on everybody training," Ginesta said.

Routt County Undersheriff Doug Scherar told school board members tremendous progress had been made to make students safer.

"The biggest thing I've noticed is at least we're moving in the right direction," Scherar said. "Don't lose that momentum."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.