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Safety and security in CCSD incorporates multiple approaches and new technology for the 2022-23 school year

Red Bag graphicSafety and security are priorities in Cherry Creek Schools, ones that align with the district’s larger core values and commitment to community.

During the CCSD Board of Education’s regular meeting on Aug. 8, Director of Safety and Security Ian Lopez spoke about the district’s work on multiple fronts to protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff. From the construction of new entry vestibules at all schools across the district to coordinated communication and cutting-edge technology, Lopez outlined the different components of the district’s approach to security, a practice that’s constantly evolving and changing.

“We want to create the safest possible educational environment across the Cherry Creek School District’s 108 square miles,” Lopez said. “We are in a constant state of evaluation and making our processes as good as they can be. This is an ongoing process. We are continually addressing new issues and concerns.”

Lopez said that the district’s approach to security and safety echo CCSD’s core values: Growth Mindset, Equity, Whole Wellbeing, Engagement, and Relationships. Cherry Creek Schools’ security team is constantly adjusting and evolving, which reflects Growth Mindset; the department is committed to addressing all facets of security and safety, a reflection of Whole Wellbeing that includes mental health and psychological security. Lopez pointed out that the security team is committed to Engagement with all members of the CCSD community, and he also stressed the district’s commitment to Equity when it comes to building its safety and security policy.

Finally, establishing partnerships in securing a district of more than 55,000 students is key; that’s where Relationships come in. The district partners with multiple law enforcement agencies, including Aurora Police, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Greenwood Village Police, and Cherry Hills Village Police. These entities work with the district on a wide array of security drills, and provide School Resource Officers in our buildings.

“There is training, collaboration and information sharing among all of these entities,” Lopez said. “It’s about building those relationships; that’s a key component of how we keep our community safe.”

Lopez detailed specific measures that the district takes in securing the safety of every student and every staff member in every CCSD building. These measures include longstanding practices, such as coordinated drills and safety exercises with law enforcement partners, as well as new technology and strategies designed to respond to nationwide incidents, such as the recent tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Lopez stressed the importance of the Standard Response Protocol during any type of emergency, an approach that consists of five main actions that schools would take in a crisis: HOLD! In your area. Clear the halls. SECURE! Get inside. Lock outside doors. LOCKDOWN! Locks, lights, out of sight. EVACUATE! Move to a specified location. SHELTER! Hazard and safety strategy.

He also detailed the radio technology that allows the district’s security team to bridge individual school channels to district channels, and allows CCSD’s personnel to loop in local law enforcement. The district’s Valcom system allows for general PA communications in the district and specifically tailored messages to individual crises, while the Red Bags available in every room in every district building offer access to emergency medical equipment in case of injury and/or bleeding. The Red Bags also offer a critical communication tool in classrooms during a lockdown.

“All three – the School Safe system, Valcom, RedBag – allow us to create interfaces to help us expedite the warning system,” Lopez said.

Lopez also spoke about infrastructure improvements that directly address access to buildings. Thanks to bond funds approved by voters in 2020, every classroom in the district will have doors that lock from the inside of the room. Lopez said that about 95 percent of the doors throughout CCSD have been upgraded, and the project will be completed by the end of the fall semester.

The district is also in the process installing entry vestibules at every school in CCSD, an addition that will provide an extra layer of security.

Lopez also spoke about the district’s new Dispatch Operations Center, which is scheduled to relocate to the Instructional Support Facility in September. This 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week facility will allow the district’s security team to work from a unified location, and to coordinate communication, alerts, and other notifications from the Valcom system, the Red Bag codes and the hundreds of cameras across CCSD’s 108 square miles.

“This center will help provide us accurate information before we arrive to assist,” Lopez said. “This is a large school district … We have to constantly address and improve our procedures. It can be exhausting, but it’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in my career. I will do everything I can to make sure we operate as safely as possible.”

- Posted 8/10/22 at 10:30 AM