Lake Oswego schools continue to focus on safety and security
As students across the country prepare to honor the lives lost in Parkland, Fla., with 17 minutes of silence on Wednesday, the Lake Oswego School District is reaching out with words of support and assurances that steps have been taken or are underway to keep local schools safe.
The National School Walkout is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 14, although each school in the LOSD is being allowed to formulate its own plans.
"Each school community, led by their students at the secondary level in concert with school leadership, are organizing their own responses to ensure safe and orderly walkouts," said Christine Moses, the district's executive director of communications. "The LOPD has been alerted and administrators will be involved in every step of the process in order to maintain a safe environment."
Students are not obligated to participate, Moses said, but those who do will stay on campus and gather in one place for the 17-minute observance.
"At our elementary schools, administrators and parents are deciding if they wish to recognize a moment of silence to reflect on the importance of having safe and welcoming schools," Moses said. "We will not focus on the recent events across the country, but rather the focus will be on how we are nice to each other and how we take care of our friends."
Meanwhile, both Superintendent Heather Beck and Bryan Sheldon, the Lake Oswego Police Department's school resource officer, addressed the topic of school safety in online messages to the community last week.
Among other things, Beck said the district is developing a series of School Safety Clinics that will offer school-specific safety information to parents and guardians in April. Until then, Beck and Sheldon said, it's important for the community to understand the steps that have been taken and the policies that are in place to keep students safe.
"The Lake Oswego Police Department and the Lake Oswego School District have worked collaboratively for years to implement, train and maintain a high level of competence in the responses to these types of devastating events," Sheldon said.
In addition to regular active-shooter training exercises involving both the LOPD and the Lake Oswego Fire Department, district administrators train annually with first responders to prepare for a variety of scenarios, using tabletop exercises developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Teachers have also participated in Incident Command procedures and drills with police officers and firefighters.
"While we all are traumatized by the events in Florida, there is a higher probability of an event like a fire, gas leak, wild animal attack, sewer backup or weather emergency, to name a few possibilities," Beck said. "There are a wide array of potential issues that we plan and train for every year."
That training has helped the district formulate an Emergency Operations Plan that lays out a set of consistent response procedures for staff and students. It also informed the safety and security measures included in the $187 million bond measure passed by Lake Oswego voters last May.
"With our mission, messaging and behaviors aligned, the bond funding has and will enable us to make even more improvements to our facilities," Beck said. Among the bond items she listed:
• Each school now has card reader access for exterior doors that are locked;
Safety vestibules will be designed and implemented at the entrances to most LOSD schools this summer and fall;
• District technology experts are reviewing proposals for safety and security vendors as part of the bond implementation;
• Dark fiber cable was installed last year in order to provide the bandwidth to implement safety and security initiatives;
• The district has deployed a robust emergency radio system throughout the entire district; and
• Flight teams — staff members who create safe places for people to work through crises and emergencies — have been trained to help students and staff when needed.
In the end, though, it's improved communication in school and at home that will have the greatest impact, Beck and Sheldon said.
"Prevention is our most powerful weapon," Beck said. "Ensuring that students have at least one authentic relationship with an adult within our schools is critical to their academic and social-emotional success. Every student must feel connected to his/her school and have a safe adult to work with."
Sheldon echoed those thoughts.
"The conversations at home and school need to improve and challenge us all," he said. "Parents have a responsibility to ask questions and listen to their children about all issues, but certainly about issues regarding their own health and safety and the health and safety of other students. Students have a duty to speak to an adult about behaviors and actions of not just themselves, but their fellow students that demonstrate a risk to health and safety."
All 10 LOSD schools are enrolled in the SafeOregon tip line, which allows students, parents and community members to anonymously report concerns about safety or individuals who may need help.
"A common theme I have heard after many of the school shooting incidents across this country have been the students who were aware of the troubled student's behavior to include social media and other areas," Sheldon said. "In a time when many of us want someone else to take responsibility for tough circumstances, I encourage everyone to evaluate how they can be an active part of the solution.
"Not saying anything when one has knowledge that could help is essentially being a part of the problem," he added. "The idea that all people are responsible for keeping all people safe and telling the appropriate people is the first step to creating a safer community."
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Lake Oswego School Superintendent Heather Beck offers these tips to help parents keep students safe:
• Work with your young students to know parents' names (not just "mom" and "dad"), phone number and address. It is critical that children know this information;
• Sew or put emergency contact information in student backpacks;
• Explain that students should follow all verbal commands from either teachers or first responders during an event. Once first responders are on a scene, they are in charge;
• Monitor Twitter, push notifications on the LOSD app, emails, the district website and automated phone calls if an emergency happens. Please do not call the school, your teacher or principal. Leave those lines of communication open for first responders; and
• Know that if reunification is needed, the district will use Twitter, push notifications on the app, emails, the website and automated calls to let parents know exactly where and when reunification can happen. Please do not come to the school until the word is given.