School Districts Review and Improve Security for a New Era of Threats | Local News


Following the May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, local school districts are reviewing and improving security measures on their campuses.

In San Mateo County, districts had previously adopted emergency response frameworks provided by the County Office of Education. However, school-specific physical modifications and additional security policies may be more difficult to implement.

Although district officials have preferred not to identify all safety improvements on their campuses, they generally follow the Big Five emergency protocol developed by the San Mateo County Office of Education.

Following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the county office formed a Safe Schools and Community Coalition. The coalition has developed a framework focusing on five immediate actions for schools to take in an emergency. All school districts and law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County have adopted the Big Five plan.

The components of the Big Five are: shelter in place; drop, cover and hold (during an earthquake or explosion); secure campus; lock/barricade; and evacuation.

Cabrillo Unified School District has also implemented measures to ensure

that schools can follow the Big Five protocol. Principals of all CUSD schools receive training and then determine how to disseminate information and responsibilities among campus staff.

Superintendent Sean McPhetridge also stressed that creating safe schools includes reminding families to listen to children and report anything they hear that raises safety concerns. He likened the process to the post-9/11 mantra: “If you see something, say something.”

McPhetridge and his facilities team reviewed physical security at district campuses. Improvements at Cunha Middle School began long before the

the latest school shooting horror. The core of the campus where all the classrooms are located is now completely surrounded by fences and exterior walls of buildings.

The fence includes “people gates” – relatively small gates that allow one or two people to pass through at a time and can easily be closed and locked. The doors have emergency exit bars on the inside and a design that prevents anyone outside from reaching and pushing the bar.

McPhetridge said as soon as the fence posts were installed, he heard people worrying that they might lose access to the sports field and adjacent structures used by the Boys and Girls Club. Doors to these areas are usually left open after school hours.

Other schools in the district have very open campuses that are not easily closed. The district recently submitted plans for new fence segments at Hatch Elementary School to the State Architect’s Division for approval. A school site safety committee must also approve the changes.

There are video cameras monitoring certain areas on CUSD campuses, but the district has not adopted full video

Security. Staff representatives and others have raised concerns about the extensive use of CCTV in schools.

In addition to physical infrastructure, CUSD emphasizes what McPhetridge calls “cultural measures”. All staff members are trained to be alert to anything out of the ordinary. Two campuses in the district have staff whose responsibilities specifically include patrolling campuses to make sure no one is in a place they shouldn’t be. These personnel are not armed.

Farallone View and El Granada Elementary Schools will incorporate safety considerations into construction plans implemented over the next few years. On both campuses, new buildings will replace outdated portable structures.

Tina Van Raaphorst, assistant superintendent of Jefferson Union High School District, which includes Pacifica High Schools, said her district also follows Big Five protocol.

The district’s plan also includes proactive measures, “such as social workers, wellness counselors and campus supervisors to connect students to resources or spot potential threats,” Raaphorst said.

“The best line of defense is for families, students,

staff and community members to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious,” she noted. The district has added guidance lines to all school websites.

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