Marysville school officials talked about safety and security of their students on Oct. 25 at the first of two public forums.
After community surveys and feedback showed that safety was one of the top issues for parents last year, the Marysville School District is putting a focus on what they do for students.
“We hope to become more proactive with our safety, and not just reactive, so we can prevent incidents before they happen,” said Greg Dennis, executive director of safety and security at the district.
One of the ways Dennis hopes to improve emergency response is by improving their emergency drills.
“To make them more realistic and not just ‘hey, it’s a fire drill, let’s stand in the play field for five minutes,’” he said.
For many safety improvements, it will require newer buildings and campuses.
“I walked into one of our elementary schools yesterday, and thinking about the way the school is designed and built, it is not for the society we have today,” said Jason Thompson, Interim Superintendent for the Marysville School District.
Some of the district’s schools are from the ‘50s and ‘60s and don’t have doors.
“I’m not certain we want to have metal detectors and buzz-in doors everywhere, but we could have facilities that would make it easier for everyone here to know they can keep their students safer,” said Thompson.
Beyond doors Dennis hopes to add potential improvements like a lockdown indicator for parents. He said that sometimes parents arrive to get their student while a lockdown is in place, which causes confusion.
In terms of communication Jodi Runyon, executive director of outreach and engagement, said that the district will contact parents when an emergency happens and encourages students and adults to not spread unverified rumors.
“One of the things we can’t do as a school district is control the speed of social media,” she said, and with most students above elementary school having cell phones these days, rumors can spread quickly.
“Our parents and staff hear about things often before we’ve had a chance to respond … if there is a true emergency, be patient, get the facts and we will notify through our ways and means,” she said.
Mental health is also a priority for the district, said Sandra Madrigal, a counselor at the district.
Currently they work anti-bullying curriculum, drug and alcohol curriculum and suicide screenings into the schools.
“In the events of a crisis, counselors will go out to that building if the school counselor needs extra help,” she said.
They then come up with a plan for how to respond “and of course always working with the families so we can do what’s best for the students,” she said.
Trust and respect is also important for reducing negative behavior, said Thompson.
“We really feel that one of the areas that we have not done a great job at is remembering that we’re dealing with people … we have to make an effort to rebuild trust,” he said.
Cultural sensitivity is one of the areas he hopes staff can improve on.
“I would like to say that it’s 2018 and everyone understands the cultures and is accepting, but that’s not always happening, and we need to focus on that,” he said.
He hopes the district can improve for the betterment of the students.
“I don’t want it to come across that a lot of bad stuff happens, because we’re mostly great people, but we have to remember that we’re here for our students,” said Thompson.