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Mancos school board discusses safety, calendar and walkout

Safety continues to be a concern at Mancos school board meeting
Member of the Mancos School District Re-6 board receive invitations, made by the children, from the Early Childhood Development Center to visit them and see what they do.

Mancos School District Re-6 covered a lot of ground in its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday: security measures, test opt-outs, its four-day calendar, its walkout, and its response to a recent lockout. The district also revisited the previously debated subject of arming qualified staff with guns.

To improve security, the district is adjusting to a new buzz-in system installed in its schools.

“What spurred us was the shooting in Florida,” said Superintendent Brian Hanson. “It was all along supposed to be part of the construction upgrades, but we decided to go ahead and do it now.”

The system is working smoothly, according to Cathy Epps, principal of pre-kindergarten through grade 5.

Hanson also thanked board members for being on campus on Feb. 23, when a fabricated threat was called in to the Mancos School District office, resulting in a lockout.

“The person involved is in the court system,” Hanson said. “There are no federal charges that can be brought against them, but there is state, and they are pursuing them.”

Secondary Principal Adam Priestly reported that about 20 high school students participated in the National School Walkout on March 14.

“They were very respectful,” Priestly said. “We had some community members join as well and stand out on the front lawn. Everything went well.”

Priestly rebutted rumors that he had threatened to suspend students who participated. “We just said if they want to, we provided a place for them,” he said.

Priestly also said that hoped students work toward positive change every day.

“Do not make it just this day to bring their ideas or what they would like to see change. Start trying to make that an everyday occurrence,” Priestly said.

He also said the school is holding various events to improve morale after the Feb. 23 lockout.

“We did the positive post-it notes the teachers did. That and the students,” Priestly said. “Just trying to get students to realize stuff happens, we can get back on track, and it seems like it has been a pretty positive atmosphere.”

Finally, he reported that the opt-out rate for CMAS testing at Mancos Schools is still high. According to Priestly, only hree elementary and 10 middle school students plan to take standardized tests. The high school will take the PSAT and SAT.

Hanson said that the high opt-out rates will not affect the school this year.

The board also unanimously approved the 2018-2019 calendar.

“I do think it is important that we give the four-day calendar at least one more year before we do anything,” Hanson said. “We need more than one year to determine that.”

Accountability Committee member Emily Brown mentioned in her report that while she does not agree with the four-day week, teachers and students are happy with it. She asked for more robust programming on Fridays to keep kids productive.

Brown also asked the board for clarification on the difference between a lockout and a lockdown. “No one understood how to react,” Brown said, referring to the Feb. 23 incident. “Communication is key.”

“Just Brian saying, ‘The district has a plan, there are people that are trained to execute this plan,’” Brown said, “lifted a weight off of my shoulders as a parent.”

Parents who attended Monday night’s meeting spoke in support of a new discussion on school safety and arming qualified staff. They argued for protecting students “from the inside out.”

The group felt that the last time the issue was discussed, it was one-sided and lacked research.

“I do not think it is viable discussion unless you poll every single staff member on this campus as well as as many parents as possible,” Brown told the board.

School board president Blake Mitchell called it a response issue, not a security issue.

“It was not just a short-term discussion that led to the decision,” Mitchell said. “It has been talked about quite a bit in the past, and there are so many pros and cons to each side.”

The board did not move to add arming qualified staff to next month’s agenda. However, Mitchell assured parents that “We hear you, this is not going to get swept under the rug.”

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