Butteville Elementary ups security measures

Skye Kinkade
Butteville Elementary School superintendent/principal Todd Clark secures the chain link fence that completely surrounds the campus.

Butteville Elementary School has spent about $12,000 in the past four months to increase the safety of its students.

As kindergarteners frolicked happily on the playground equipment Thursday afternoon, they didn’t notice the neat and tidy chain link fencing that surrounded them and the rest of the campus. They didn’t notice the video surveillance cameras located on each side of the building and they aren’t aware that the new blinds in all of their classrooms are more than just a cosmetic upgrade: they also help keep them safe.

The December shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School prompted the Butteville Board of Trustees to focus on the issue, said superintendent/principal Todd Clark.

“I conducted a schoolwide analysis risk assessment, which indicated where we were safety wise, and where our weak spots were,” said Clark. “Then we began to whittle away at the list and fill in the gaps.”

Aside from surveillance equipment, fencing and blinds, the campus, located in Edgewood, now boasts an alarm system complete with panic buttons in each classroom, universal locks that allow teachers to secure all rooms from the inside, and intercom system and walkie-talkies for better communication.

Through collaboration with both the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department and the Redding Police Department, Butteville has also updated their lockdown procedures and are practicing with drills at least once a month.

“We have a signal. Three sharp whistles is a trigger to tell kids to stop and listen to instructions,” Clark said. He said he was amazed how quiet the students were and how quickly they cleared the playground to secure themselves in a safe place during the school’s latest drill.

Teachers and staff were trained in intruder preparedness earlier in the month.

The school’s safety plan is “about 80 percent complete,” said Clark.

The Butteville board hopes to soon add a dedicated staff member that will set up a desk in the small room currently used for the school nurse to make eye contact with every person who walks through the front door.

Though a security officer was discussed as a possibility, Clark said that option is a bit cost prohibitive.

The school is also researching the possibility of partnering with the Sheriff’s Department to create a branch office on campus, where deputies could stop to do paperwork or take care of other responsibilities. Butteville is in a perfect central location for such an office, Clark said.

The school is also planning a few finishing touches to the fencing system this summer.

While he believes an emergency situation like a violent intruder is not likely, Clark said it is important the school is prepared for such an event.

Clark also said there is a trade-off between making a school secure and transforming it into a prison. Butteville is doing its best to strike a pleasing balance.

Every month at the school’s board meetings, safety is an agenda topic and members of the community are invited to speak and share their thoughts and concerns, Clark said.

While there were lots of comments in January and February, the comments have dropped off more recently, an indication that good progress has been made, said Clark.

While he was expecting the upgrades to be costly, Clark said he was surprised at the affordability of the technology and feels good about the progress.