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Shooting threat sparks NHS security audit

The trial of the Newberg High School student allegedly planning to shoot up the shoot is scheduled to begin in juvenile court next week, but in the meantime Newberg School District officials have decided to order a safety and security audit of the open-campus school.

“We want to make sure that we’ve got the best information in understanding how to provide the best safety and security for our students,” assistant superintendent Dave Parker said. “We have a great relationship with our police department. They work very closely with us, but we just feel like now we need to go out and kind of take a look at how the campus is set out and what are some other options for us to look at in trying to do the best job we can to make this a safe educational space.”

Parker said that re-examining how the school — which features several separate buildings, numerous doors unlocked during school hours, vehicle access from three roads and two parking lots — handles security has been on his mind ever since Jacob Dwight Hill’s alleged plan was reported to school counselors and Hill was arrested March 3.

Parker discussed the idea of a security audit with Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza over spring break and brought it up at a meeting of senior district staff when school resumed March 28.

Access to all elementary and middle schools in the district is restricted, as visitors must be buzzed into the front door via a video doorbell system, but the open campus layout made that unfeasible at NHS, though visitors are asked to check in at the main office and receive a visitor’s badge.

Parker is researching who nearby school districts have consulted with on security, but also encountered a similar situation while working in Hillsboro.

Hillsboro High School features a similar open campus design. Parker said changes were made to restrict access by setting up fencing and using a single parking lot.

“The nature of a school is people come in and people leave, so it’s not as easy as just totally locking everything up,” he said. “By the same token, we also need to have some of the best thinking around what other people in the area and the nation doing.”

Parker was not alone in his thinking on the subject, as school board director Ron Mock broached the topic of security at NHS during the board comments portion of the March 29 meeting.

“A couple others weighed in and so did the student rep, Hayley Bosse,” communications director Claudia Stewart said. “She was talking about how those few weeks went down for her and she never felt unsafe at all, but you could tell that for her, as a student, it was tough.”

Parker did not reveal the number of students expelled from the high school for their involvement in the threat, but did say that the expulsion process is ongoing in the case of students not currently incarcerated.

At this point, Hill is the only student being held in connection with the threat, but court records indicated that four other students were present at a meeting when the plan was recorded into a journal that police seized from Hill’s room March 3.

Following a March 16 hearing, Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said the investigation into other students involved in the plan was ongoing and that it was undecided whether any would be charged.

Parker said that no time table has been established for the security audit, but that finding the best consultant or company for the job is a priority.

“Once we do that and know a little more about what they’re recommending, then we may be having a wider conversation as a community,” Parker said. “It may (require) a large amount of community engagement to solve the problem.”