Also considers open enrollment, makes budget committee appointments

A policy moving toward approval by members of the Estacada School District board of directors will officially keep weapons off local campuses and make them gun-free zones.

The school board met Wednesday, Feb. 13. Included in the consent agenda was the policy regarding weapons in school.

“Employees, district contractors and/or their employees and district volunteers shall not possess a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm on district property or at school-sponsored events,” the policy states. “This prohibition includes those who may otherwise be permitted by law to carry such weapons.”

A dangerous weapon is defined in the policy as “any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance, which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.”

A deadly weapon is “any instrument, article or substance specifically designed for and presently capable of causing death or serious physical injury.”

Firearms are defined as any weapon, including a starter gun, “which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, frame or receiver of any such weapon, any firearm silencer or any other destructive device including any explosive, incendiary or poisonous gas.”

However, weapons under the control of law enforcement personnel will remain permitted.

The school board voted to approve a first reading of the weapons policy, which also sets up penalties for violators.

“Employees in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal,” the policy states. “Individuals contracting with the district and volunteers will be subject to appropriate sanctions. A referral to law enforcement may be made.”

Superintendent Howard Fetz said the issue was raised following December's shootings at the Clackamas Town Center, where two people died, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which an armed man killed 26 people, including 20 young students.

“We just want to make sure our kids are safe, and staff, for that matter,” Fetz said. “With the events in Connecticut and other places since, people mimic that kind of idiotic behavior.”

The district has responded by evaluating its internal security measures. Volunteers and parents have stepped up to add more of a physical presence at some of the district’s schools. But some of them have concealed weapons permits, a matter that has come up at the administrative level.

“There is no tolerance for staff members, volunteers or contractors working within the district. We are not allowing them to pack,” Fetz said. “But there is the ability for an adult who wandered in to see his kid to be packing. That is state authorized. But with policies at the school district level, we become our own local law, so to speak.”

Fetz said he is confident that the security measures currently in place are adequate to protect students and staff.

“Every school has heightened security measures in order to make students feel as safe as possible. We believe that so far, those attempts and efforts have been met with genuine gratefulness on the part of parents,” he said. “We intend to continue to invent new ways not only to decrease the chance that somebody can come in and wreak havoc on our students and staff, but we also need to continue to work in the playgrounds, up and down the hallways of the lunchrooms and every classroom to make sure our schools are bully-free, safe and hospitable.”

The consent agenda including the weapons policy was passed without much discussion. Another item, pertaining to open enrollment, generated much more.

As of March 1, enrollment at Oregon schools is open to parents hoping to put their children in school districts other than the ones they are currently attending.

“The way it works is whether we’re open or not, students may leave the district to go to another district in the month of March,” Fetz said. “By passing open enrollment participation, we’re not opening ourselves up to greater loss than we currently experience. But it is an opportunity to accept students from other districts.”

No restrictions were placed on the district’s open enrollment, though parameters could have been put in place. School board member Steve Woods cast the sole dissenting vote on that issue.

Board members also made two appointments to the district’s budget committee. Joseph Behrman has lived in the district for eight years and has children who attend Eagle Creek Elementary School.

Angie Nelson is an accountant who has been in the district for more than 10 years and also has a child at Eagle Creek. She has participated in that school’s parents club and has been a Little League board member.

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