Recent events in the news have caused concern among Key Peninsula parents about school safety.
According to Peninsula School District Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto, the district has procedures in place to respond to any problems.
The district also conducts routine drills and training sessions that keep procedures up to date.
“We work closely with Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and also with our local sheriff’s and police departments doing trainings like earthquake drills, fire drills and also lock-down drills,”Cuzzetto said.
And anytime there is a situation like there was at Marysville-Pilchuck, “we review what could we do, what could we do different, what different drills do we need. We update that on a regular basis,” he said.
The District also has conducted several formal, “active shooter”trainings with school principals and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. “We did one last year at Peninsula High School,”Cuzzetto said.
In addition, last summer the district hired a consultant to do a safety and security assessment of all the buildings in the district.
The assessment dealt not only with things such as active shooters but also made recommendations about controlled access, visibility, fencing and other areas.
“For instance, one thing we need to do is make sure the bushes are cleared around our buildings so we can have good visibility of kids wherever they are,”Cuzzetto said.
“We also need to take a look at our fence lines and make sure they’re secured all the way around.
“And especially at the elementary level, we’re trying to limit access points so that we have either cameras or buzzers or other alarm systems,” he said.
The district is currently doing cost estimates for making all the recommended changes. “We want to start moving in those directions so this school year or next school year if we can carve some money out of our budget to do what’s needed,”Cuzzetto said.
Schools initiate a “modified lockdown”if a bear or other wildlife is sighted near a campus.
And recently at Minter Creek Elementary a loud explosion-like sound was heard in the area so, as a precaution, the school went into modified lockdown, he added.
“That means they wouldn’t let students in or out of the building, but students could still move around inside the building.”
It was a precautionary measure and district’s school resource officer responded quickly and assessed the situation and determined that there was no danger.
In other instances, he said, “the authorities might contact us and tell us there’s some kind of activity near your school, and we would go into a modified lockdown, just not let students go outside.
Dan Gregory, assistant superintendent noted that currently there are no funds in the district’s budget earmarked for the recommended safety and security changes.
“There were funds built into the recent capital levy and capital bond for safety and security. But because those did not pass, we have to re-prioritize and decide how we take some of our current funding and redirect it into safety and security. We’re looking to see what we can do right now.”
He added that any time there is a possible safety situation, the district’s policy is “to make sure we have good communication with our parents, letting them know what occurred. It’s essential that any communication is accurate and timely. We’d rather they hear directly from us what’s happening than hear something from the rumor mill or from their child.”
Parents can be assured that “we’re going to do everything we can to take care of the students and staff to make sure they’re safe. And we’re always going to err on the side of caution,” Gregory said.
For information on PSD policies contact Dan Gregory or Kathy Weymiller at (253) 530-1000.