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  • Eagle Point's school safety conundrum

    Eagle Point committee refines search for preventative measures
  • Eagle Point School District workers will be asked to rank possible safety measures for schools, ranging from installing sophisticated security systems to arming teachers.
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  • Eagle Point School District workers will be asked to rank possible safety measures for schools, ranging from installing sophisticated security systems to arming teachers.
    The Eagle Point Weapons Safety Committee on Wednesday fine-tuned a survey to give staff members and decided to hold a public forum during its next work session on April 9.
    The committee is charged with identifying procedures needed should the School Board decide to arm staff members, and is studying improvements to safety across the district.
    "We want this committee to come up with procedures we can use so that we aren't the next Sandy Hook," said School Board Chairman Scott Grissom, who attended the meeting as an audience member.
    Grissom proposed the idea of arming staff at a board meeting last June, and the committee has been studying the possibility since.
    The committee has come up with a list of procedures and policies the School Board would have to create if it does decide to arm staff, including deciding which type of gun and ammunition would be used, where weapons would be stored and what would happen in the event of an accidental discharge.
    The committee is proposing that armed staff would complete an annual six-week training course and is considering recommending psych evaluations and random drug tests for armed teachers.
    The survey that district staff members will take asks them to rank 10 possible new safety features for schools, including arming teachers. Other options include a buzz entry, one-way security glass or bulletproof glass at a school's main entrance, more school resource officers or armed security guards. Another option is an extensive Nexar security system with door locks, panic buttons and cameras, which would be used in connection with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
    The system was already put in place at Shady Cove Elementary last June and helps facilitate a lockdown of the school in the event of an emergency.
    The simplest and least expensive option is to take out language from the district's policies that prohibit staff who independently have a concealed handgun license from bringing the weapon on campus. Human Resources Director Allen Barber said that 85 percent of Oregon schools don't have policy language that prohibits those with a license from bringing their weapons to work.
    Though the committee has studied the varying costs of each of the safety upgrades, members have decided to leave the costs off of the staff survey, hoping teachers will rank the safety measures despite what they may cost the district.
    Parent and committee member Nita Lundberg said that she believed the district and the community would come together to protect schools.
    "If it's important, we'll find the money," she said.
    The group has estimated that arming staff could cost about $73,000 per year, armed security guards could cost $420,000 annually and installing Nexar systems across the district could cost $2.4 million.
    Barber said that school board and the budget committee, not the Weapons Safety Committee, would be responsible for considering the costs.
    He said for the first time in eight years, the budget outlook for the district is positive.
    "The budget conversation is getting heated up," said Barber. "The budget outlook right now is OK — it's good."
    The committee will hear public opinion and field questions for up to an hour during its next work session, at a location yet to be determined.
    A final recommendation to the board on whether to arm staff or implement new safety measures will be made during the board's May 14 meeting.
    "When our five board members make this decision, we want to give them all the information," said Barber.
    Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.
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