RAWLINS — Carbon County School District No. 1 and local law enforcement officials have started discussing school safety as a result of concerns following the Parkland, Florida, shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
During a Thursday evening workshop, local principals, Rawlins Police Chief Troy Palmer and Carbon County Sheriff Archie Roybal shared their greatest concerns and areas of safety they hope to address.
Rawlins principals Darren Heslep and Ryan Searle and Little Snake River Valley School Principal Joel Thomas shared similar concerns with video surveillance cameras in their schools, saying they had little or no footage available.
“Our cameras are really old,” Searle said. “If something did happen it would be really hard to discover where it happened. It is kind of the nuts and bolts of the building and the in and outs.
Currently, Rawlins Middle School and Rawlins High Schoolnd RHS each have 16 cameras while LSRV has zero.
Superintendent Mike Hamel said each individual camera could cost about $1,800 to replace.
In addition to camera concerns, several of the principals also touched on the schools’ open access points during the day. Despite new security entry systems at each school, Heslep and Thomas said there are points people can avoid being let into the building.
Heslep said RHS’s open campus lunch period and after school functions like choir concerts are two of his biggest concerns.
“We frequently host events, band concerts, plays — all those types of things,” he said. “Our doors are open and anybody can come in and out and hang out, and anybody can access big parts of the building at anytime.”
Heslep said he hopes to secure the building a little bit more during those times.
Thomas added LSRV has concerns about people coming and going before and after school and pointed out buses as something that also needed to be addressed.
“Those are all (times and) places they are sitting ducks,” he said.
Trustees Denise Pfeffer and Holley Nicholson questioned if practicing drills beyond classroom times would be necessary to help in cases of emergencies.
“A majority of time we do our drill when the kids are in the classroom, but what about when the kids are being dropped off at school, when they are leaving the building?” Pfeffer asked.
Palmer, said if someone wanted to get in to the building they could. He added the districts preparation for a shooting would be key moving forward.
“Circumstances may change and your environment might change, but your plan should always be the same,” he said.
Palmer said the district and law enforcement have lacked in communication and need to work together to get back on the same page.
“The law enforcement does not know where your guys’ exact locations are for evacuation processes for each school specifically,” Palmer said. “I think that is something that really needs to be narrowed down.”
Although principals would like officers on campus more, Palmer said, the enforcement budget does not allow for it.
“Since 2008, we used to have 21 officers,” Palmer said. “I am down to 18 now.”
Palmer said one of the best things schools could do is stay consistent.
In the event the district did decide to help support a staff member, Hamel said the officer would be responsible for following the enforcement policies rather than the district’s.
“My history would be that the law enforcement employs the person, so they are a law enforcement officer,” Hamel said.
This could potentially affect the officer’s ability to act on situations by the district’s policy.
“When a school person may have reasonable suspicion to maybe search a locker or search an individual and the law enforcement is handed something different,” he said. “If that standard is different, sometimes they have to work with the school personnel or sometimes they have to call in a separate officer.”
Thomas said LSRV has received more help from the sheriff’s office the past few months and now only goes a day or two without law enforcement on duty in the area as compared to in the past where the town had gone a week without law enforcement.
“The concern that we have is response time,” he said. “If we have an emergency and there is a deputy on, there is a good chance they are not in Baggs. They are covering the whole county.”
Thomas said the town is currently advertising for a town officer.
Hamel, Palmer and Roybal further plan to meet more to determine what areas can be addressed and what is financially available. Trustee Matt Feldmann, meanwhile, plans to contact other school districts around the country to gain insight on some safety procedures.