Entering a school in Woodland Park will come with some added security measures this coming school year.
The Woodland Park School District will undergo renovations this summer to enhance security for students and staff. The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management awarded the school district a grant of $334,910 to fund the new improvements. Public schools across Colorado received a total of $29 million for construction projects that ramp up security and prevent school violence.
Woodland Park will use its grant money to fortify entrances at all five of its schools. Visitors to the schools will pass through a vestibule where trained staff will greet the visitors from behind bullet-proof glass. People entering the school will be required to present identification, such as a valid driver’s license, that will be scanned to check for criminal history and any red flags that could threaten student safety.
Visitors who pass the instant background check will then be given a pass that includes their name and the part of school they’re going to. This ensures that visitors only go to parts of the school they are authorized to enter, explained public relations specialist Stacy Schubloom.
“I don’t want our parents to think that there’s been one incident that has caused these (security improvements),” Schubloom said. “It’s just how our world is right now. We want to do everything that we possibly can to keep our staff and our students as safe as possible. This is proactive, not reactive.”
Students will enter the schools as they always have. When asked if the school district will be adding metal detectors, Safety and Security Coordinator Sean Goings said there currently isn’t a need for metal detectors.
“If we had a higher incidence of people bringing guns or knives to school, then we might consider that,” Goings told the Courier. “We live in a great community. We have great kids. And we don’t need to screen our kids … We are very fortunate that we live in a community that is very caring and nurturing.”
The school is upping its security in other ways. A school resource officer from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office will be assigned to the Summit Elementary School. Laminated glass will be added to school windows to make them shatter resistant.
It was after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 that the school district considered ways to improve its security, Goings said. But over-fortifying a school can make students feel like they’re entering a jail instead of a welcoming place to learn and make friends.
“This is an opportunity for us to be more secure,” Superintendent Steve Woolf said. “We have no desire to be Shawshank. We want to be welcoming.”
Goings said the school district considered changing the name of Columbine Elementary School following the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. They decided to keep the name, he said, because changing it would mean handing over control to those people who use violence to spread fear and paranoia.
“We don’t want that culture for any of our kids,” Goings said.
Woolf said the goal is to provide a safe environment while making sure that students can enjoy a normal education.
“High schools at some point run the danger of looking like a jail,” Woolf said. “We want to make sure that it’s a welcoming and exciting environment for our kids.”
The school district has various emergency drills and training programs ensuring that students and staff respond quickly and safely during a crisis. The anonymous tip line Safe2Tell allows students to alert the school of any threats to school safety.
The Safe2Tell hotline is 1-877-542-7233 (SAFE).