Parents volunteer to stand watch at school entrances

by: NEWS PHOTO: SCOTT JORGENSEN - Parent volunteer Darlene Turner greets students and parents outside of Clackamas River Elementary School as part of a new program aimed at enhancing security. The front entrance to Clackamas River Elementary School in Estacada looks a little bit different these days.

As visitors approach the door in the mornings and at the end of the school day, they are likely to be greeted by volunteers like Debbie Turner and Mary Youngberg, donning brightly colored vests.

A few steps later, they encounter a podium, complete with a stop sign, a pile of visitor’s badges and a sign-in sheet.

The school has recently started its greeters program, and it has thus far been met with enthusiasm by volunteers and parents alike.

Principal Seth Johnson said the program was prompted by the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 young children.

School safety became a top priority for the Estacada School District, its officials, employees, students, parents and the community at large in the aftermath of that horrific event. The sense of urgency grew almost immediately, as there was a rumored threat of a similar incident happening locally days after that initial incident.

Johnson said discussions began after winter break on how to enhance security at school facilities. Parents suggested many ideas, which ultimately led to the greeters program.

“We don’t want a climate of fear, but we want safety while still having the school be inviting,” Johnson said. “A lot of people were eager to help and give up some of their time.”

by: NEWS PHOTO: SCOTT JORGENSEN - Parent volunteers Darlene Turner and Mary Youngberg stand watch at a podium placed right next to the schools main office. Turner was among them. She attended a training session a few weeks ago and did her first stint as a greeter on the morning of Monday, Feb. 4.

“I think it’s definitely important to have a presence in the community,” she said. “It’s important that we, as parents, start showing up.”

Johnson sent a letter out to parents informing them of the program, and it prompted enough of a response to fill every one of the slots requiring volunteers.

Youngberg also just started participating in the greeters program. She has children who attend second and fourth grade classes at Clackamas River.

“I would rather that the school be safer for my kids,” Youngberg said. “I feel a lot safer.”

Like Youngberg, Turner has a child who goes to the school. She’s had children in the district for the last eight years, and said that in a small town like Estacada, parents tend to know each other and have a good sense of who belongs on school grounds.

“The district has been through a lot in the last couple of years, and the kids have been through a lot,” Turner said. “We’re all in this together.”

Johnson said the program is helpful, as school staff members are already occupied with trying to teach students.

“Is it the perfect solution? I don’t know,” Johnson said. “But it’s one step closer to making students safer.”

Turner said she’s glad to make a contribution.

“If anything, we’re being an extra set of eyes,” she said.

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