HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — Amid a number of school threats in recent days, concerns are growing among parents.
One district in the metro is making safety improvements to buildings.
Though some of the recent threats have turned out to be a hoax, safety is always a concern. When it comes to school buildings, the Douglas County School District is making an investment in safety.
It was a 2018 bond measure voters passed to fund new vestibules for Highlands Ranch, Ponderosa, and DC Oakes High Schools. These entrances were installed over the summer and are brand new this year.
According to district officials, these schools were the priority due to the age of those buildings, many newer schools already have a secure vestibule built in.
Whenever school is in session, the door is monitored by security staff, and everyone must be buzzed in. When school is not in session, doors are always locked and secured.
The principal of Highlands Ranch High School, Dr. Christopher Page Jr. said it’s about preparing for a worst-case scenario.
“When somebody walks into the building, they now have to check in through security first be buzzed in and be officially let into the building so that way we ensure that they don’t have any ill intent or that they can’t do anything harmful to the school immediately and we could put ourselves into an immediate lockdown if we had to,” said Page.
However, structural improvements are not the only change in DougCo Schools. Security staff is making sure they’re accountable for everyone who comes into the school.
Douglas County School District said they also have security managers who oversee about 60 campus security specialists, and four of those are in Highlands Ranch High School.
“Their job is to interact with the principals and staff and make sure that the students are safe throughout their classes, lunch, and coming and going throughout the day. Highlands Ranch has a full-time SRO assigned to the school, as do our middle and high schools,” said Jonny Grusing, Director of Safety and Security for Douglas County School District.
The bond also doubled the number of cameras they already had in the building and eliminated blind spots in any nooks and crannies of the school.
School officials said it’s not only for threats of violence, but the cameras are also intended to capture whether students are fighting, having a mental breakdown or any other possible issues.
“Also sometimes the mental health of our students, right? The ability to eliminate all the blind spots in the school and have more cameras available so that we can see what’s going on in our building also allows us to see when something bad is happening for just an individual student even if they’re having a mental breakdown or a fight is breaking out amongst students. We’re able to respond and respond immediately,” said Page. “So that way, the really dark and terrible things that we think about happening sometimes to students, don’t happen, and instead we’re able to respond efficiently and effectively, whether it be through our safety and security or mental health team or some of the other measures involving our community members.”
This staff is confident students are safe in DougCo Schools but added they’re always looking into new technology and safety advancements.