Park City School District increases safety at schools
The Park City Board of Education began the school year naming one of the district’s initiatives creating “safe and healthy schools,” accompanied with plans to update the schools’ entryways and visitor management systems. After a hiatus for the Board to seek counsel from a consultant, the plans are back in action.
Anne Peters, a member of the Board, said that the Board began to make decisions last year about safety protocols such as updating the entryways and installing fencing around the schools. As they moved through the process, they realized that having a safety expert on hand would be beneficial.
The Board hired Cole Smith with the software and security company Tresit Group. He presented his findings at the end of February.
“We paused intentionally to get the experts’ opinions so we only have to do this once,” Peters said. “Now we are kind of regrouping from where we left off.”
She said the delay to the changes has been frustrating, but the Board decided it was the right move.
“There is nothing in my mind that is more urgent than the safety of our children,” she said. “I want to do it properly, I want to do it sequentially, and I want to be responsible financially.”
In the report Smith presented a few months ago, Tresit Group assessed the amount of control the schools have over entrances; security and safety protocols for principals; and a response for students who are in modular classrooms if there is a threat at the school. He also made recommendations in favor of a system to keep track of visitors.
Tresit Group also suggested that the district move forward with fencing around the elementary schools. Peters said that the district is currently in the request for proposal (RFP) process for bids to conduct the work. The Board plans to select a company and begin installation of the fences this spring, according to the district newsletter.
The Tresit Group reviewed the potential locations of the fences and made initial suggestions.
It recommended installing a fence at McPolin Elementary School that would be used to restrict public access during school hours, according to its report.
Tresit Group suggested that the fence at Parley’s Park Elementary be installed at the top of the hill behind the school or partially downward toward the school to avoid blind spots near the fence. No information was provided in the report about a fence around Trailside Elementary School, but the Board plans on installing one as well.
Peters said that the district will be working with the neighbors to discuss the design of the fences, but that suggestions from Tresit Group will guide a lot of the decisions. The idea of installing fences around the schools has been controversial, and some residents have expressed concern that the fences would close off open space and decrease property values of nearby homes.
“We are taking the lead from the safety experts on the fencing issue,” Peters said.
The revamped entryways, which are currently under construction at the elementary schools, were also reviewed by Tresit Group.
At McPolin Elementary School, the front counter will be expanded and two doors will be added to increase visibility. At Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools, the plan is to finish the floor molding and add a door and wiring entry for speakers The wiring and speakers would be used to buzz in visitors.
An additional door and wiring entry will also be added to Trailside Elementary School, according to the district newsletter.
The newsletter said local law enforcement would increase security until the construction is complete. The secondary school entrances will be updated after the elementary ones are complete, which should be this summer.
When visitors come to the school, they will no longer sign in on paper, but will be required to use a system that will scan their driver’s license or other valid form of government-issued identification. A visitor badge with a photo will be printed.
The district is testing various systems and will select a district-wide one this spring. The system will be used next school year, according to the district newsletter.
The district is also increasing the amount of emergency drills, which Peters said will help all faculty, staff and teachers know what to do in case of an incident.
“You cannot take for granted that drills only make you better, drills only make you prepared, drills take the fear out of it,” she said. “We just have to change the mentality of the schools to being safe. It might take us a little bit of time to adjust, but it’s really for the best.”
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Park City High School students have had to adjust to remote learning once more after a spike in coronavirus cases forced the school to temporarily close its doors.