District fields ideas toward more school security

In an effort to make La Cañada schools safer and more secure, officials are considering hiring security personnel at all sites, installing surveillance cameras and equipping campuses with better locks and signage.

Those priorities were determined Tuesday in a governing board workshop held to further discuss the findings and recommendations of a districtwide Safety and Security Committee that worked for months with representatives from all four campuses.

Taking into account cost, effectiveness and feasibility, school board members ranked a list projects and purchases as being of high, medium or low priority.

"This is not an exhaustive list, but it's the first one we've come up with," said Mark Evans, the district's newly hired chief business and operations officer, who led Tuesday's discussion.

Among the 38 items listed for consideration were alarm systems, fencing, locks and motorized gates that would keep out unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians. Also suggested were part-time attendance clerks and PA sound systems.

Board member Dan Jeffries said he felt the most important security measures involved schools having a solid lockdown procedure and being able to quickly communicate with law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

"The experts seem to agree getting that lockdown situation down is really important," Jeffries said, asking Evans to also investigate the feasibility of acquiring an emergency alert system for schools and the possibly community at large.

Officials were in consensus that all school sites could benefit from the presence of security personnel, whether uniformed security guards or campus aides, in addition to fencing in key areas. La Cañada High School would likely receive supplemental security of 3.75 hours each day, while the elementary schools would be outfitted with personnel working full seven- or eight-hour days.

Part of security's job duties could be patrolling campus, watching surveillance footage and directing visitors to sign in at school offices. They would also be more cost-effective than completely fencing off all the campuses, suggested board Vice President Andrew Blumenfeld.

"We have these very open campuses. We're a part of the community and the community is part of us, and I think that gets disrupted with too much fencing," he said. "A good counter to that…is campus security."

The board asked Evans to come back with specifics on the pros and cons of hiring from an outside agency versus creating four new district positions, and to identify low-traffic areas at the schools where fences might be placed.

Mike Leininger, a former assistant superintendent for the district who came out of retirement on a temporary consultant's contract to head the Safety and Security Committee, told the board there were some low-cost efforts that could be made on district work orders, such as installing locks and displaying signs for visitors.

"I don't want people to get the idea there is no signage," Leininger said. "There is signage, but we need to look at the effectiveness and the location and the language that appears on those signs."

Evans said he would investigate the questions and concerns raised and come back with more concrete details and costs for each site, likely at the board's Aug. 26 meeting.

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