Dear Parents, Families and Staff:
I provided a brief message on Wednesday, May 25, about safety and security at Longview Schools. In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, I wanted to provide you more detailed information about the efforts our district has undergone in the last few years to make our schools safer. As you have heard me say before, the safety of our students and staff is a top priority. Nothing is more important than making sure our kids are learning in a safe and secure environment and return home at the end of each school day. In this update, I hope to make you aware of the efforts taken and the improvements made to schools in the last few years, additional improvements that will be made this summer, and future improvements planned for the coming years.
Several years ago, the district hired a school safety consultant to identify safety and security weaknesses at our campuses. Since that time, measures have been taken to lock exterior doors and create single points of entry or limited points of entry (dependent on school design), trim back and remove landscaping to eliminate hiding places, install extensive security camera systems to allow real time viewing of our schools, install property access controls such as fencing to secure school grounds and electronic door locking mechanisms (system with camera and microphone that is used to identify a person before staff unlocks doors and grants permission to enter school), and improve exterior security lighting. Phones in the district have an emergency all-call button to send out alerts over loud speakers across entire buildings and multi-campuses if a threat is detected, and emergency radio training has occurred for key staff in all buildings and district office. The district has also improved emergency notification processes and have ramped up emergency drills that involve staff, students, emergency responders, local churches, and parents. These initial steps were taken to make our campuses safer and to improve our emergency preparedness.
Over the past year, front door electronic access controls were installed at Columbia Heights, Kessler, Northlake and Broadway schools, and security fencing was installed around the perimeter of Mint Valley, Columbia Heights, and Kessler elementary schools.
This summer, front door electronic access controls will be installed at Mt. Solo, Monticello, Cascade and CVG, and fencing to strengthen property access control will be installed at Mark Morris, CVG and Robert Gray.
One of the major projects occurring this summer is the construction of secure front door vestibules at the entrances of Discovery High School, and Olympic, St. Helens, Robert Gray, Mint Valley, and Kessler elementary schools. Vestibules are secure areas that are walled off from the rest of the school that require a person to be identified by a staff person before being allowed to enter the locked doors of the school. The vestibules will serve as a check-in point for visitors. Please note that the front door vestibule project includes all schools in our system, but due to budget constraints this project has been broken out into two phases. The second phase will include security vestibules to be built at Columbia Heights, Northlake and CVG elementary schools, and at Cascade, Mt Solo and Monticello middle schools next summer.
By limiting access to our schools to single/limited point of entry, better securing the exterior of our schools, and requiring visitors to be identified and buzzed in by staff, we are able to better control access into our schools and slow down possible threats. By practicing active threat drills, we increase our preparedness, response time, and efficiency while continuing to build on our relationships with our emergency response agencies.
All of this work has been made possible by the generosity of Longview Public School voters who have voted to approve the Capital Projects and Technology Levies. As the superintendent, I want to thank you for prioritizing safety and security and giving our district the funding needed to make improvements to keep our kids safer.
Another important item to mention is our district’s strong relationship with local law enforcement agencies, who we closely work with regularly to keep our kids safe. Our high schools employ full-time Longview Police Department school resource officers that respond to needs in all of our schools. Law enforcement response times to our schools has been very rapid and their investigations quick and thorough. I cannot praise local law enforcement enough for their efforts in helping us keep your kids safe.
In closing, I want to remind you that one of the most important things we can do as a community is say something if you see or hear something that could be threatening. Notification of potential threats is critical to stopping tragedies, saving lives, and they are always taken seriously. If you hear or see something concerning that could affect our schools, call 911 or contact our schools.
If you have questions about the work we are doing, I am happy to take your calls or emails, or you can reach out to your school principals. I can be reached at 360-575-7016 or at email@example.com.
Dan Zorn, Ed.D.