Trentwood Elementary Principal Sigrid Brannan watched with a cautious eye while she greeted students Wednesday on the first day of school in the East Valley School District.
Brannan looked on as children and their parents crossed through morning traffic on the busy Wellesley arterial in Spokane Valley. Wellesley is 35 mph with the exception of the three-block 20 mph school zone in front of the school.
“Speed is the biggest problem, and parts of the (school zone) signs are hidden behind trees,” said Betty Strawm, a crossing guard at the school. The speed limit on Adams Road, across the street from the school, remains at 25 mph. “It’s confusing for drivers,” Strawm said.
This time of year most local law enforcement traffic units run emphasis patrols, re-educating drivers about the consequences of speeding in school zones, namely a $177 citation, said Spokane Valley Police Sgt. George Wigen.
It’s one of many school safety issues on the minds of parents and educators as kids head back to school in the coming weeks.
School safety is an all-encompassing concept that includes traffic, weapons, security, environmental and facility issues.
Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene had security cameras installed in the hallways, gymnasium, auditorium and common areas this summer. Coeur d’Alene High School has had them since it was remodeled in 2001, but Lake City only had cameras on the outside of the building.
“We think it will really add a tremendous dimension of security,” said John Brumley, Lake City’s principal. “We see it as a good step forward.”
The school resource officer can view the cameras from his office, and administrators will get a similar system installed in their offices shortly, Brumley said.
The cameras should “curtail the petty things that go on” like littering and vandalism, he said. He also expects it to discourage kids from skipping class.
“We just have a better set of eyes overall,” Brumley said. “If you have a problem, it’s easy to just go back and roll the video and figure out who did what where.”
He hasn’t heard any opposition to the cameras and doesn’t expect any.
“There’s just so much of an expectation around safety and security, particularly at the high school level (that) I can’t imagine a parent would be upset,” Brumley said. “Most parents would be comforted by the idea of having another level of security and safety.”
In East Valley, by mid-October crossing Wellesley and Adams will be much safer for the 42 percent of Trentwood’s 300 students who walk or ride their bike to school.
This school crossing, along with one at West Valley’s Seth Woodard Elementary and Central Valley’s Broadway Elementary will be equipped with flashing beacons, installed to let drivers know when they need to slow down to 20 mph.
The city of Spokane Valley obtained a grant to install the beacons from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
“School zones are always a safety concern for kids of all ages. At the high school level you have student drivers behind the wheel,” said East Valley High School Principal Jeff Miller. “Anywhere you have foot traffic, cars and bus traffic there are safety issues,”
The presence of local law enforcement can help mitigate traffic safety issues, among other things like school violence.
Most Spokane County school districts including Mead, Liberty, Freeman, West Valley and Central Valley school districts have school resource officers or deputies their schools.
Spokane has its own district resource officers, but lost local law enforcement officers in the schools in 2004 due to city budget cuts.
East Valley School District has had its own security for a decade, but this is the first year the district will have a school resource deputy.
Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Kenoyer, will join campus supervisors Lisa Morgan and Tim Ervin at East Valley High School. This is his first assignment as a school resource deputy.
“There will be some differences, but basically it will be the same type of issues that occur outside schools,” said Kenoyer. He plans to become a familiar face at school functions like sporting events and concerts.
“We’re happy to build this relationship between law enforcement and our school system,” said Miller. “Safety is the number one issue at schools, maybe before education. If kids aren’t safe or don’t feel safe, they can’t learn.”