School board ponders security options

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SANDPOINT — A bevy of options are available to the Lake Pend Oreille School Board when it comes to improving school security.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Shawn Woodward told trustees options include partnerships with regional sheriff’s offices, contracted mental health professionals, an established team at each school to handle emergency situations.

Woodward and assistant administrator Doug Olin spent the past two weeks working with local law enforcement to address one of the more worrying school security weaknesses : long emergency response times. According to school officials, it can take law enforcement 20 minutes or more to reach distant locations like Clark Fork Junior and Senior High School.

As a result of those meetings, Woodward proposed both a long and short-term solution to the problem. For a district investment of between $8,000 and $10,000 to help pay overtime costs, local sheriff’s deputies are willing to take on additional hours that will minimize rural response times. This arrangement would last until the end of the school year, at which point school officials can begin plans for a permanent school resource officer in the district’s eastern borders.

Another promising lead is a partnership with a mental health professional, Woodward said. While professionals like counselors are commonly employed by school districts, highly-trained individuals like psychiatrists or clinical psychologists are very rarely brought in on a full-time basis. That’s why Woodward proposes contracting the services on an hourly basis. Through discussions with Kaniksu Health Services, he believes that between $15,000 and $20,000 will be sufficient to get the most at-risk students immediate mental health.

According to Woodward, there’s at least one student in every district school that could benefit from the service.

“Some probably have even five or more,” he added.

Woodward hopes to have a full agreement with some health services organization ready for consideration by Jan. 6. Out of the options on the table, this is the one that has him the most intrigued, he added.

“I’m very excited about the idea of helping these kids out right when they need us the most,” he said.

Finally, Woodward said it’s critical every local school have a team ready to respond when the need arises. These individuals would handle the planning and oversee the execution of lockdowns, evacuations, visitor screening processes and other standard procedures. This goes for emergency situations ranging from an active shooter in the building to more likely occurrences like bomb threats. Furthermore, facility and technology upgrades like an alert system in the event of a lockdown would be welcome additions, he said.

Board members agreed that collectively, these improvements could have a big impact on district security. Trustee Chairman Steve Youngdahl recommended developing the new proposals in tandem with anti-bullying programs for the best final result.

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