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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

As Spokane Public Schools begins implementing security recommendations, armed personnel remain a consideration

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.  Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Public Schools took the first steps Wednesday night toward implementing some of the safety and security recommendations offered last spring by a national consulting firm.

The Safe Havens report, a 156-page document that was handed to the board last May, was presented in a more digestible form Wednesday night by Associate Superintendent Linda McDermott.

Entitled the “School Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Work Plan,” it includes six pages of short- and long-term objectives – some of which have already started moving forward.

The contentious issue of arming professionals or other personnel inside schools remains in the “to be done” column. But it also definitely remains an option – and for some people it’s the main item on the menu.

Two people spoke Wednesday night against adding armed personnel, while McDermott said she hoped to bring as many people to the table and “bring a framework to the conversation.”

The question of adding armed personnel is broached diplomatically on the third page of the work plan. It reads: “Developing an approach to provide armed prevention coverage of District schools, support facilities, and as appropriate, athletic, and special events.”

The Safe Havens report didn’t explicitly recommend armed prevention coverage, but urged the district to consider it.

The issue is likely to remain dormant for at least several months, as three new board members will take their seats in December.

The district also must find money to pay for security enhancements – money that’s already scarce after budget cuts earlier this year. Moreover, Superintendent Shelley Redinger has said that the district will seek input from the community before taking action on the issue.

“We do need to have community engagement,” board member Brian Newberry said. “As soon as we lose that security, education stops.”

A key move will come next month, when the district will begin the recruiting process to hire a new director of campus security, student transportation and risk management.

“When the new director is on board, we will begin engaging the community” on that issue, McDermott said.

But the district is moving forward with some improvements. At a total cost of $60,000 to $75,000, automated external defibrillators are being placed in all schools.

McDermott’s report included 47 line items arranged under four categories: Emergency Management Plans, Training and Drill Programs; Student Welfare and Behavioral Prevention Measures; Emergency Communications, Access Control and Other Security Technologies; and Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness.

In the first category, the district is already moving ahead with a “more comprehensive all-hazards approach” to school safety, security and emergency preparedness.

The district also is enhancing staff training in identifying behaviors that might indicate violent action by a student or other individual.

Another area of concern – the safety of students during after-hours activities – also is “in process,” according to the document.

McDermott expects to offer another update in January.

“This is a project we will be working on for several years, and I plan to see it through,” McDermott said.