Safe Schools: Many Utah districts implementing new safety measures

Mar 22, 2018, 10:00 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2018, 2:16 am

SALT LAKE CITY – School safety has risen to a top priority in nearly every Utah district. Even before the Parkland shooting, schools were budgeting millions, retrofitting buildings and conducting safety drills.

Since that tragedy, the pace of implementing safety measures has rushed to a sprint.

“Unfortunately, it’s come to that. But we’re here and so we have to adapt to those times to keep our children safe,” said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter.

The Park City School District is just one of many examples where big changes are underway. This small district is spending $4 million to overhaul school entrances and build perimeter fences around some of the elementary schools.

“A lot of districts already have a lot of these things,” said District Spokeswoman Melinda Colton. “In Park City, we’ve always really prided ourselves that we’re fairly open.”

Not anymore. Most large districts have high-tech options that limit entry into schools.

At Pony Express Elementary in Alpine District, the exterior doors lock at the start of school. Visitors come to a video camera system at the front doors where the school secretary can see who wants to enter. Once she clears them, she buzzes open the door. Alpine has similar “door bell” or video camera entry systems in 36 elementary schools. They are working now to expand those to secondary schools.

For many parents, the security brings relief.

“The more that the school can do to help them feel safe and help them feel like they are at a secure environment while they’re here, the better,” says PTA President Hilary Bolander.

“We all know that in order for learning to occur, we have to have safe schools,” added Kimberly Bird, a spokeswoman for the Alpine District.

Granite District is implementing another high-tech system. Visitors enter the schools into the main office area and to the School Gate Guardian computer. This sign in does an instant check to determine if the visitor is on the sex offender registry before the school secretary provides entry.

“This allows us to get that information as well, which provides an additional layer of security for students,” says Granite Spokesman Ben Horsley.

The School Gate Guardian system is already in one-third of Granite’s elementary schools and will be installed in every elementary over the next two years.

Many districts have drastically increased the number of surveillance cameras in their schools. Jordan District has doubled the number in every building. And these cameras are shooting in high definition, which makes the video much more helpful in solving and deterring crimes.

They’ve also beefed up entry-way security with double doors that route visitors right into main offices. They’ve completed work on all elementary schools. They’re halfway done with junior highs and work starts soon on the high schools.

As schools come of age, administrators hope the same will be true of parents and other visitors.
Just last week, police arrested a man in the Canyons District who got angry when a school secretary wouldn’t let him check out students without authorization.

Police had to escort him out of the building and eventually arrest him for aggressive behavior.

“We don’t have to like it. And we don’t expect our parents to like it, but we hope that they will support us.” Said Colton of Park City School District.

School leaders also hope that support includes paying for all this protection. It isn’t cheap.

The door system at just one Granite elementary can cost anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to two million dollars, depending on the renovation.

Alpine District is spending nearly $700,000 on elementary security. Retrofitting the lobby of one elementary can cost up to $100,000.

2017 Bond and levy monies are helping speed up safety upgrades at some schools.

Wayne School district, for example, asked the community to pass a levy so they could hire a social worker, in addition to their school counselor. It passed and they are now in the hiring process.

Given cost constraints, many districts are boosting the low-cost, low-tech aspect of school safety by working more closely with law enforcement and school resource officers.

Wasatch School District has now put two officers in their high school. Murray school district has full-time resource officers in secondary schools and are working on a presence for their elementary schools. Emery School district recently added a resource officer to its elementary schools.

And in Park City, Officer Trent Jarman makes it a goal to put seven miles of walking every day on his Fitbit. The department is enhancing their visibility in district schools by encouraging officers to do their reports in the lunch room or in the hall.

They and many Utah districts believe officers on the inside of locked doors will help just as much as the secured entries.

“I want the kids to know me. I want them to see that they are safe, that this is the best environment that they can possibly have,” said Officer Jarman.

“That’s the reason the school resource officer program is so important, because they have an advocate in the school,” added Chief Carpenter. “Those relationships forged early on, those relationships of trust go a long ways as we move forward.”

For a list of the security priorities and measures for most of Utah’s school districts, click here.


First school in country to arm teachers explains ‘guardian plan’

Survivors, families pushing for VA’s Threat Assessment Teams across US

SafeUT app uniquely managed by social workers, mental health professionals

New Utah School Safety Commission wants action, not reports


KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Safe Schools

FILE - UCLA campus in Los Angeles (Google Earth Pro)...

Police: Man in custody in Colo. over alleged threats to UCLA

A man who allegedly threatened the University of California, Los Angeles, and detailed potential violence against the prominent university over hundreds of pages has been taken into custody in Colorado following a standoff Tuesday.
8 months ago
An unidentified school hallway.(FILE PHOTO, KSL TV)...
Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Roosevelt police charge 3 students after threats promoting school gun violence

Police in Roosevelt City said they have charged three local students with a felony each for participating in a social media campaign to threaten schools.
10 months ago
Ogden school resource officers went back to class to learn about connecting with teens. (Winston Ar...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

New class helps Ogden school resource officers connect with teens

School resource officers with Ogden Police Department attended an important class Tuesday designed to help officers understand students better. 
10 months ago
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

SafeUT app helps parents, students and schools during safety threats

The supervisor of the SafeUT app said days like Utah experienced on Monday — with several school safety threats — show the vital role the app plays in helping students, parents and school administrators.
10 months ago
Woods Cross Teen Center rendering. (Davis Education Foundation)...
Dirk Facer, KSL TV

Woods Cross HS breaking ground on homeless center

Groundbreaking today for a teen resource center for students experiencing homelessness.
10 months ago
Debbie Worthen, KSL TV

Canyon School District creates school shooting response plan

After a student shooting occurred just off campus of Union Middle School, Canyon School District has created a school shooting response plan.
10 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Safe Schools: Many Utah districts implementing new safety measures