Local schools taking right steps for safety

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The Feb. 14 shooting in a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 dead remains on many people’s minds.

In Moses Lake, a School Safety and Security Task Force was formed to create a safety project list at Moses Lake High School and a cost estimate. The task force is comprised of experts, including law enforcement, school administrators, a representative from the district’s architectural firm, and school board members. We think this is a step in the right direction, even if big changes are not made. A review of current safety policies and procedures is good practice regardless of current events. It’s also a good time to address known issues.

At the Jan. 11 Moses Lake School Board meeting, city police chief Kevin Fuhr told the school board there are access issues at the high school for first responders. If an incident happened, police, firefighters and EMS would have to park on Pioneer Way and walk in because Sharon Avenue paralleling the school would be blocked. Other safety issues include the number of students: 2,059, according to the district’s website showing October enrollment. The district is scheduling for 2,374 students by this fall.

The time spent on campus is another factor. Students are on campus for 12 hours a day because of varying schedules and it’s hard to secure the building physically, Fuhr explained to the board.

At a minimum, the district needs to look at alternative ways to get in and out of the high school, he said.

In Othello, school board members, law enforcement, juvenile and mental health professionals served on a panel this week to discuss school safety. Parental involvement at home and awareness of local mental health services were highlighted, according to a article in Wednesday’s Columbia Basin Herald.

Two Othello High School teachers said they weren’t in favor of arming teachers and four Othello sophomores said they thought arming teachers would make the school feel less safe.

Often, new ideas and perspectives unfold after a tragedy. Sadly enough, there may be lessons learned from the Parkland tragedy we can draw from locally. Keep in mind there are many layers to the Florida shooting, including the extensive contact the shooter had with law enforcement and the FBI before the tragedy. That’s not to mention the failure of the deputy assigned to the school to enter the building and try to take down the shooter. The deputy resigned his position shortly after.

Gun violence and access to guns by people with mental disorders are also factors. On Wednesday, students took part in a 17-minute walkout protesting gun violence in our nation. Moses Lake High School students also participated. We think awareness is fitting, but it’s important to learn all the details of the incident before making wide-sweeping changes.

New details could still unfold. Being flexible to adjusting safety plans is key. We hope that raising awareness and regularly reviewing safety plans will help prevent future tragedy.

— Editorial Board

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