SOUTHERN COLORADO — Some local school districts are already back in school while others return over the next few weeks. And over the summer, school resources officers were getting ready to make sure they're trained and students are safe this school year.
Law enforcement agencies like the Pueblo Police Department and Colorado Springs Police Department work closely with school districts to provide school resources officers at schools.
Pueblo PD provides ten resource officers to schools in Pueblo D60. CSPD provides 23 school resource officers to five school districts in Colorado Springs.
“Our biggest concern is the safety of the students and the staff at the school,” said Corporal Ray Alvarez.
Alvarez has been a police officer for nearly 28 years and a school resource officer for about 20 years. He graduated from Central High School in the the 80’s, and is now a SRO at that high school and says he takes in pride in protecting and serving the community he grew up in.
He also said in the event of an emergency, school resources officers will be ready.
“We’re not going to wait. We're going and try to make the situation as safe as possible,” said Alvarez. “If that means go on alone, then we're going to go alone. If the other officers show up, then that helps too. But our number one concern is to get to the threat and make sure that it doesn't cause any more harm.”
In D60, there is one SRO at each of the four high schools, and one in each of the five middle schools. Then they make rounds to the elementary schools too. Every summer, when the kids are off school, they also go through training, learn new techniques, and make sure they’re familiar with how to handle emergency situations.
SRO’s are also responsible for helping to develop safety procedures and conducting drills.
“Well support them with anything they need from us. We’re there to answer questions, assist with any issues that may arise. We also check areas and neighborhoods to make sure there's nothing around the area that that can be a threat to the school,” said Alvarez.
Meanwhile Harrison School District 2 has a partnership with CSPD. The district has three SRO’s from the police department. Each one goes through extensive safety training.
“We have a lot of systems in place. We train on lock down drills. We have presentations that run the gamut of things that would be of a safety concern for students,” said Toland.
Martin Toland is the security director for the district and said now, conversations about an SRO’s job are at the forefront of many people's minds including parents.
“It is more important than it's ever been in light of some of these tragic incidents that have happened,” said Toland. “But even more importantly, how can we be proactive? How can we be proactive with our students and identify possible situations before they ever balloon into something tragic?”
He says next to keeping students safe, their other main responsibility is building relationships with students and staff.
“By humanizing that individual as a school resource officer, the students get to see as the year progresses that we have an individual that truly cares about my well being and my vested interest,” said Toland.
Toland says the district has also increased the number of security cameras at schools. About seven years ago, there were 100, whereas now there are about 700. Construction projects are also underway to create security vestibules and lobbies at the front of the school. Schools have also employed the Raptor Visitor Management System, where visitors are required to scan their ID before entering and it keeps track of who is in the schools at all time.
In a statement from CSPD, they tell News5: “The department has worked tirelessly on building an open communicative relationship with each of the five districts. Security coordinators from each district routinely communicate with the supervisory staff of the unit to address staffing, response, process improvements, threat assessments, safety planning, and overall student safety. SRO’s have established relationships at their schools with students, staff, security and parents.”
D20 has 4 SRO’s, D49 has 2 SRO’s, D2 has 3 SRO’s and one vacancy, D12 has one SRO and one vacancy, and Colorado College has 1 SRO. Each district has a contract with the city outlining their requests for the number of SRO’s and what schools they’d like them assigned.
Recently, more charter schools and private schools have also reached out to the Pueblo Police Department. They're requesting training to go over safety measures and ideas to help make their school safer.
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