Mesa school officials will analyze every campus to assess safety measures in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shootings last month.
Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Mike Cowan told the district governing board during a meeting Tuesday that the district is starting the examination of the schools, as well as policies in place, to ensure every precaution is being taken in regards to student safety.
Cowan told the Tribune this week that he directed the school’s safety and security department to do the assessment, “to see what we could do to provide a further level of safety.”
After 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six staff members – and himself – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December, Cowan said the district fielded calls from parents concerned about their children’s safety.
“I think everyone understands safety is at a new level of priority, but we have to be very deliberate about what we do, recognizing that safety has always been a top priority for Mesa Public Schools,” Cowan said.
School district board member Mike Nichols said he was “impressed” with the steps the district is under taking.
“They are being so proactive about it. State and local law enforcement is already looking at school sites to see how we can improve it if we need to,” he said.
The school safety analysis was announced to district staff as part of a regular weekly email message from Cowan on Dec. 19.
“I have directed the district’s school safety and security department to conduct a site-by-site analysis to identify structural and protocol changes needed to ensure our campuses are safe, secure and tranquil learning environments. The Mesa Police Department is working with them on this important task,” Cowan wrote.
The analysis will include looking at gates and locks at schools, as well as seeing how parents and volunteers come in and out of each campus.
Cowan’s message came a day before a Red Mountain High School student was arrested for making threats to harm herself and her Mesa school. She posted the threats on an Internet page. Her parents said she has a history of mental health issues and had seen by a psychiatrist,
After the district analysis is complete, the recommendations by the school’s safety and security department will come to the district governing board, likely by the end of January, Cowan said. The board will then decide on any measures that may require funding.
District voters in November approved a $230 million bond for Mesa schools. The district could use some of that money to meet security and safety issues, Cowan said. But that could mean delaying other projects that were identified when the bond was presented to the community.
School district boards are able to reallocate a small amount of bond funds to projects not previously listed.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is already taking his own steps in the district. Arpaio announced this week that volunteer posse members will be placed outside 59 school campuses in the Valley. Those volunteers are travelling between two Mesa Unified School District campuses – Taft and Stevenson elementary schools in east Mesa – that fall in the county jurisdiction, Cowan said.
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