A controversial plan to remodel the entrances for security purposes at two upper-level schools in Blaine County has been placed on hold for at least six months.
"We're going to hold off on that until January," said Mike Chatterton, Blaine County School District business manager. "I want to do a whole plan where the board doesn't have all these questions."
The remodeling plan applies to Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School. If it is approved, the entrances would be remodeled to direct people through the offices during school hours.
Chatterton said the proposed changes mainly require cutting a new doorway into the offices from the school entry points. Inside sets of double doors would be locked during school hours, preventing access without going through the offices first.
Costs of the remodels, calculated in 2009 when a new security plan was being developed, was estimated at $75,000 per school.
District officials had earlier planned to ask the board of trustees for approval in July.
District Security Director Scott Manning raised public awareness of his security concerns in an impassioned presentation to the school board at a meeting on June 14. Manning told the board that a school shooting could happen in Blaine County and that a shooter could have easy access to either the high school or middle school because of lack of security at the entrances. Trustee Paul Bates took exception to Manning's presentation and called it "paranoid ranting."
Public comment since then has been mainly critical of the Manning proposal.
Improving security in the school district is not a new issue, nor has the public been left out of the process. When the district's strategic plan was completed in 2008, "safety and security" emerged as one of the strategic plan's 10 goals.
Development of the strategic plan began in 2007. Some 125 people helped develop the plan. They included school board members, administrators, teachers, students, parents and community members.
Safety and security is now listed as strategic plan goal 8. According to the plan, the overall purpose of goal 8 is to ensure that "our schools are safe and secure environments that adapt to an ever-changing world."
After the strategic plan was approved, separate committees were formed to develop strategies for reaching plan goals. Thirty-one people, including school officials and members of the public, developed the strategies for goal 8.
One of the highest priority strategies, as developed by the committee, was for "perimeter security." Included in the strategy for school security were electronic door lock systems, key card identification for district staff and remodeling the entrances to the high school and middle school.
The goal 8 strategies were presented to the school board in May 2009 and approved unanimously the following month.
In October 2009, Blaine County voters approved a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy to implement goals of the strategic plan. Included in the funding was $2.24 million for goal 8.
Many of the goal 8 strategies, including new school security cameras, electronic door locks, key card identifications and improved school and police communications are already in the process of being implemented. However, Chatterton said school board approval is needed for a construction contract for a remodel of the entrances to the high school and middle school.
The makeup of the school board that will eventually consider whether to go ahead with the remodels will be entirely different than the one that approved the goal 8 strategies in 2009. Members then were Chair Alex Sundali and Trustees Julie Dahlgren, Kim Nilsen, Daniel Parke and Mary Beth Matthews.
Sundali and Nilsen were defeated in the 2009 election, respectively, by Trustee Bates and Trustee Steve Guthrie. Neither Bates nor Guthrie had yet taken their seats when goal 8 was approved.
Matthews resigned in 2010 and was replaced by Trustee Kathryn Graves.
Dahlgren, who became school board chair after Sundali, and Parke did not seek re-election this year. They will be replaced at the July 14 school board meeting, respectively, by new Trustees Don Nurge and Shawn Bennion.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org