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Mancos school board weighs security options

Concealed weapons, school officer are among the choices
A history teacher instructs students at Mancos High School in 2013.

As students geared up for the first day of school in Mancos this week, school board members and staff on Monday debated the best way to address security on the school campus.

Board members weighed the options of potentially arming school administrators with concealed-carry weapons or hiring a school resource officer (SRO). An SRO is typically a member of law enforcement who is responsible for security and crime prevention at a school.

Board president Blake Mitchell said board members needed to make sure they kept gathering the best information to make a decision. The decision would be tough, but whatever choice the board made would not be the wrong decision, he said.

“I lay awake at night thinking about this a lot,” Mitchell said. “I think about putting our staff in a situation that would change their lives.”

The board didn’t take an official vote on the options, but directed Superintendent Brian Hanson to explore the choices. Board members suggested holding public meetings devoted to the issue to bring parents and community members into the conversation.

Hanson said he liked the idea of an SRO. Ideally, the school would have an SRO stationed at each of its buildings on campus, but that’s not likely to happen, the superintendent said.

“I could think of nothing worse than kids getting injured at school,” Hanson said.

Board members discussed looking for grant funds to hire an SRO, but Hanson said if they pursue that options they should find money in the budget.

Most Colorado districts do not have an SRO, Hanson said. All board members should be on board, and any vote on a certain decision should be unanimous, Hanson said.

Board member Monty Guiles complained that the board and school staff weren’t exploring all the potential options to a conclusion. The board had discussed school security at previous meetings, but discussions haven’t moved forward, he said. He would not vote in favor of any option until he had better information, Guiles said.

Guiles said he didn’t think weapons in the hands of administrators was a great idea, but he wanted more information. He suggested a potential combination of the options.

“You can’t plan for every circumstance,” he said.

Board member Pamela Coppinger said the board faced a “quandary” with the potential options, but students deserved better protection.

Board member Tim Hunter said that if no district staff members are willing to carry concealed weapons, the point was moot. He said he would like to see the district pursue an SRO, even if it was funded with a temporary grant.

The board discussed a potential intergovernmental agreement with the town of Mancos, in which the town might pay for a portion of the SRO’s salary. Board members instructed Hanson to contact town staff about that option.

In addition to that aspect of school security, new fire and safety codes will require all school doors to be operated with a push-button lock mechanism from the inside. A plan must be in place to reconfigure the doors by January 2018.

Secondary principal Adam Priestley said safety of students is a huge concern.

“I hope we don’t drag our feet when a decision needs to be made,” Priestley said.

Sep 20, 2016
Mancos school officials discuss funding for improvements