School district discusses safety plan

School District officials and the city's police chief put on a safety presentation at the school board meeting Tuesday evening in response to the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Laguna Beach Unified School District officials went over the plans and procedures that have been in place — which are continually revised and updated — to keep students and staff safe in case of any emergency that may arise.

"Obviously, this is a huge topic on everyone's radar right now," said El Morro Elementary School Principal Chris Duddy. "We really want to emphasize that even though it's on our forefront … this is something that's really been on our radar for a long time."

The district recently conducted a security audit in October and received recommendations from the audit in December. But the district also revises its emergency plans annually and makes a point to review it with all staff every December, Duddy said.

Staff are assigned responsibilities and trained on subjects such as shutting off utilities, where to gather in case of a fire, and how to reunite students with their parents during an emergency, said Director of Facilities Ted Doughty.

Throughout the year, each school site conducts different emergency practice drills and already this year schools have done a fire, earthquake, lock down and evacuation drill, Duddy said.

Top of the World Elementary School also practices bus evacuations, where a bus takes the students down the hill to Laguna Beach High School in case of a fire because of the school's location in a fire zone, he said.

Duddy concedes it is impossible to know what will happen during an emergency, but "the more we plan and be proactive and do our drills, the more prepared we will be."

The district reviews other school districts' emergency plans and also partners with the Laguna Beach police and fire departments.

Police Chief Paul Workman said the district's emergency safety plans are good.

The police department has increased routine patrols at schools, and officers frequently train on campuses after-hours to get to know each site, he said.

There are evacuation routes in place, as well as command center locations, and every officer has gone through 30 hours of special training on how to respond to violence and terrorism in a school setting, Workman said.

"This is something we do give a lot of attention to," he said. "As the chief of police, I am just terrified to have something like this happen to the community. I just don't know how you cope with something like this."

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