Steamboat school district considers plan to improve security at high school | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat school district considers plan to improve security at high school

A Steamboat Springs School District employee checks to see that side doors to the high school are locked in this file photo.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Less than three weeks after the fatal school shootings in Parkland, Florida, the Steamboat Springs Board of Education tentatively gave its blessing Monday to modify the security measures at the entrance to Steamboat Springs High School at 45 Maple St.

The plan involves creating a vestibule within the main entrance so a school employee can engage visitors and students returning to the building face to face, and at the same time, have a view of the parking lot. That would also allow the person to see in advance who is approaching the high school.

School Finance Director Mark Rydberg introduced the plan during a review of a list of capital projects being considered for funding in fiscal year 2019, with the work to be conducted during the summer 2018. This list is separate from the capital projects that will launch this spring, which are funded by a bond issue that voters passed in November. 

"We have not priced anything, but we're looking at a scope of work," Rydberg said. "I think we can make the security vestibule at the high school better and safer than it is. That being said, we have an open campus. We have kids moving in and out."

During the course of a school day, some students leave to attend classes at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs and juniors and seniors are allowed to leave the campus for lunch Rydberg said.

Chris Johnson, president of the Parents' Information Committee at Steamboat Springs Middle School, told school board members that her perception is that school shooters are typically someone who everybody knows. She urged board members against spending “a whole lot of resources" on beefing up entrance security but to "spend more resources on finding people who are feeling alone or have more social/psychological issues."

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Superintendent Brad Meeks said school officials have had talks about the current inability to admit returning students and visitors to the school one at a time. Visitors to the high school are currently viewed on a security camera and directed to turn to their right immediately after entering the school to obtain a visitor's pass from the office. In the meantime, they have gained access to the busy commons area.

"We'd like to cordon the vestibule off like a small office, buzz people in, and see who it is, and at the same time, have a view of most of the parking lot," Meeks said. "At one time, a student was positioned near the check-in," and allowed people in as they were recognized.

“More recently," Meeks explained, "it has been a (school employee) who watches people arriving at the school via a security camera."

A new, staffed vestibule would also help to ensure that visitors follow up on directions to go to the counter of the school office to get a pass that visibly confirms they were admitted to the building.

"Sometimes people are admitted but don't go to the counter to get their pass, that shows they've been admitted," Meeks said. "It happened recently with a parent, and a student corrected that individual."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.