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Newport-Mesa finishes review of schools' safety and will install fences and hire 4 psychologists

Newport-Mesa finishes review of schools' safety and will install fences and hire 4 psychologists
Navy veteran Robert Shaw speaks to a second-grade class in 2016 at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, which is one of three elementary schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District slated to get permanent perimeter fences this summer. (File Photo)

Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials completed a comprehensive safety review of their 32 schools and two office locations last week and said fencing will be installed on the perimeters of several campuses after summer break starts.

Mariners, Newport Heights and Wilson elementary schools will get permanent fences. Corona del Mar High, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High schools are slated to get temporary chain-link fencing until the district's architects submit designs for more attractive permanent fences.

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"We're ready to move and make the improvements as soon as humanly possible," Supt. Fred Navarro said.

Deputy Supt. Russell Lee-Sung told the board of trustees at its meeting Tuesday night that all district school sites have hosted Newport Beach or Costa Mesa police officers for active-shooter training or have scheduled it before the end of the school year.

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Following discussions between district officials and Newport Beach Police Chief John Lewis, the Newport Beach City Council will consider hiring a new school resource officer to help the two officers based at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools and cover other Newport Beach public schools. The position's annual cost of $140,000 would be split between the city and the school district, according to city documents.

District spokeswoman Annette Franco said Wednesday that the district hopes to have similar discussions with the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Lee-Sung announced the district will hire four full-time school psychologists before the 2018-19 school year. A coordinator of student services also will be hired to help Phil D'Agostino, director of student and community services, manage mental health and school safety issues.

"We know the more proactive we can be, the better," Lee-Sung said. "We believe adding additional psychologists … will be a plus to all our students."

Ensign seventh-grader Rylin Sekas urged the board to take immediate actions to protect students in the wake of Friday's shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas and other deadly school shootings.

"Recently I have been going to school every day knowing in many different parts of this world, kids are being shot dead by sick and cruel people," Rylin said. "Rather than looking at the political side of these recent school shootings, as a student I thought the most effective way to prevent these devastating acts of hatred would be to reach out to the district and school board in search of funds to maintain safer school security."

The 13-year-old said she and her friends walked around Ensign on Friday and found seven potential entrances for a shooter. She wants those entry points closed.

"Do it for the children and put yourself in our shoes," Rylin said. "I can assure you if your work[place] had been known for being intruded and shot up, you would do something to stop it and save yourself. So think about us and save us."

DANIEL LANGHORNE is a contributor to Times Community News.

Twitter: @DanielLanghorne

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