Report sizes up La Cañada school safety

To give La Cañada Unified school sites everything they could possibly need to feel safe and secure would cost the district at least in the ballpark of $550,000, according to recommendations of a district safety committee presented Tuesday to the governing board.

Mike Leininger, former LCUSD assistant superintendent of facilities and operation and brought out of retirement on a six-month contract in January to head the district's Safety and Security Committee, delivered a list of recommendations made by representatives from all four campuses.

"We wanted to make sure we were getting input from the entire community at each of the sites," Leininger told the board.

Their requests ranged from the small, such as door and gate locks, parking lot lighting and signage, to bigger ticket items like campus fencing, video cameras and security personnel at all three elementary schools.

Many of the audit's smaller suggestions have already been put in place, leaving bigger, more controversial items up for public discussion.

Board members asked that the list of recommendations be categorized to indicate which items would affect student safety, and which are intended to prevent trespassing or to protect school property.

"It would be helpful, at least to me, to think this through and (ask) what are we doing this for," said board member Dan Jeffries. "Are we trying to protect students, or are we trying to protect property on the weekends?"

Leininger will return with more information to a public workshop tentatively scheduled to take place before the board's next regular meeting on July 15.

In 2013, the Safety and Security Committee was charged with the task of responding to a districtwide security audit, conducted in January 2013 by Orange County-based T. Davis & Associates in the wake of the December 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

That report made several recommendations for emergency preparedness, chief among them creating a procedure for campuses to follow in the event of a lockdown. That has been done and is currently being practiced at all schools, Board Vice President Andrew Blumenfeld confirmed Wednesday.

To determine the larger needs of each school, the committee met three times throughout the 2013-14 school year and reviewed a list of site-specific action items. Those 58 recommendations were winnowed into the prioritized, comprehensive list presented Tuesday.

Participants were not given the estimated cost of completing those projects, so as not to deter them from providing their honest input, Leininger told the board.

Instead, Leininger worked with Walter Tatum, LCUSD's maintenance and operations manager, to obtain reasonable estimates for completing the work associated with each request.

Together, the combined cost estimate for all four school sites ranges from $534,475 at the low end to $721,175 at the highest, with additional funds required for internal cameras at the elementary school sites that were not specified in the documents provided by the district.

"All these recommendations and costs are approximate costs," Leininger explained. "Any time you go out to bid, you have the opportunity of either going over bid or under bid."

After the presentation, board members discussed the merits of hiring a security guard, as opposed to hiring a part-time employee to watch the schools. They also inquired as to whether campuses could be outfitted with panic buttons that called the sheriff's department in an emergency.

Jeffries asked Leininger to look into whether the sheriff's department might provide unarmed, unsworn civilian volunteers, called "white shirts," to patrol campuses, in advance of the upcoming workshop.

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