Washington County School District begins implementing countywide security upgrades

File photo of Washington County School District office, St. George, Utah, Sept. 11, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County School District is making big changes to school facilities with the goal of better ensuring students’ safety.

A $125 million school bond initiative passed by voters last November is allowing the district to add new amenities to schools in the area. The bond is intended to address three concerns: expanding the number of schools to facilitate growth, maintaining and updating existing properties to ensure safety and helping to refund general obligation bonds.

Washington County School District Communications Director Steven Dunham said the most talked about aspect of the initiative has been the topic of safety.

“This is part of our efforts from a school district to make sure we’re doing our due diligence to make sure the students have a safe environment to come and learn,” he said. “If the students don’t feel safe, if they don’t feel comfortable, they can’t learn, and we have to provide that first.”

Washington County is now using $1.34 million set aside specifically for updating security measures, including the installation of security doors.

According to Dunham, the district has already started adding the doors to elementary schools this summer and plans to finish a majority of county schools within the next few months. The district does not have a timeline for when all county schools will have these doors, but Dunham said the project can continue during the school year or wait until next summer if necessary.

The new doors have a sturdier frame, thicker glass and a magnetic lock, which can only be opened with an assigned key fob. The doors will be locked at all times, and administrators will ensure that all visitors check in with the front office before having access to students, as the only entry point will be through the doors.

General trends, Dunham said, have prompted district officials to evaluate safety procedures and maintain or update as they see fit.

Pine View High School students are evacuated to the football field as police investigate a bomb scare inside the school, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“I think if you look at what has happened nationally over the last few years, and some instances that we’ve had locally, it’s important that we do all we can to make sure our students are safe.”

Among some of the worst incidents of violence include the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012 that resulted in the deaths of 26 people – including 20 kindergarten students. Another gunman opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last year, killing 17 people. 

Locally, a Pine View High School student attempted to detonate a homemade explosive in the school cafeteria in 2018. 

“We want our parents to trust that for the many hours a day the students are in our buildings, they’re safe, they’re comfortable and we’ll take care of them as best we can,” Dunham said.

Other security measures are also being put into place, but Dunham said after consulting with authorities, the district has decided not to disclose details about those measures.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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