Tahoe-Truckee schools play it safe with emergency plans | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee schools play it safe with emergency plans

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Truckee and North Tahoe schools are safer than ever, but there is always room for improvement, district officials say.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District is continuing to refine its district-wide emergency plan, and individual school sites are beefing up safety standards too, making some campuses more secure today than they were just weeks ago.

“There have always been requirements and policies about safety, but it has gotten much more involved since Columbine,” said director of facilities John Britto. “If anything good came out of it, it’s that there are a lot more details that go into being ready.”

The Oct. 1 Amish school shooting ” the 34th school shooting in the United States in the past 10 years ” prompted Britto, Superintendent Dennis Williams and school principals to take a more proactive position on student safety. Teachers at the district’s elementary schools are now required to keep their classroom doors locked while school is in session.

“We got a directive from the superintendent that we need to keep all of our inside and outside doors locked, and we are all trying to adhere to that plan,” said Truckee Elementary School counselor Jan Susman. “When someone comes to the door, they knock, and you wait until you can see them in the window before you open the door.”

Teachers at the elementary schools aren’t the only ones locking students in for safety, others have decided to do the same, even if their campus isn’t requiring it at this time.

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Officials at many schools, including North Tahoe High School, Tahoe Truckee High School and North Tahoe Middle School, have also decided to lock all of the external doors at their schools so that no one can enter the campus without first checking in at the front office.

“When we talked to the school sites about the idea of locking the doors we also had a request to install eye-sights in some of the doors that don’t have windows,” Britto said. “We are ordering and installing them now. It’s going to take a little while to do them all, but it was fairly inexpensive.”

All classroom doors in the district also lock form the inside, Britto said, so teachers do not have to go out into the hallways in order to secure their rooms.

As part of the district’s security plan, video cameras have been installed in nearly every school, WIlliams said, and eventually every campus will have them.

But technology and door locks are only half the equation. Students and staff must also be prepared to react properly in the event that an intruder comes onto their campus.

“We’ve worked on lockdown procedures for if there was a shooter on campus, and last year Truckee Elementary and Glenshire Elementary had drills in which all the students were instructed to get out of sight,” Britto said.

The district requires that students and staff at all school sites participate in emergency drills, though it is up to the school sites to determine when the drills will happen, Britto said.

To keep parents informed, the district is developing a call-out system tied to schools’ databases that would be able to make thousands of calls in minutes, he said.

“It can be used for the more mundane things like snow days, but it can also be used in an emergency,” Britto said.

The district is doing all it can to stay up to standard and ahead of the curve, Williams said, and the district’s safety committee will continue to meet on a monthly basis to discuss safety needs and issues.

“To some degree, we are waiting to see if there is going to be a response at the state or national level about whether they are going to make (safety) requirement for schools,” Britto said. “I could envision that they may make a decision that schools are going to enter into a whole new paradigm, and that we are going to treat campuses differently than we have in the past.”