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RSF School board to consider electronic locks to improve campus safety

The Rancho Santa Fe School District completed a hazard and vulnerability assessment over the summer, resulting in some recommendations for keeping students safe in school. According to Chief Operating Officer Brad Johnson, the district will consider improvements such as an access control system (electronic locks) and ID badge card readers to better secure the campus, an updated school safety plan, as well as continued emergency response training for all staff.

Parent concerns about campus safety were heightened last school year following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In March, the district took immediate action by limiting access to campus entrance points and forming a Safety Advisory Committee consisting of parents, teachers, classified staff, administration, board member Sarah Neal and the RSF Community Center Director Linda Durket.

One of the recommendations to come out of the committee was to hire a safety consultant—in May, the board hired School Safety Operations, which conducted the hazard and vulnerability assessment over the summer.

“This school has a very high baseline, so you should feel good about yourselves,” said Jeff Kaye, the founder of School Safety Operations at the Sept. 13 meeting, complimenting the R. Roger Rowe campus’ fencing and door locks as well as the “impressive staff.” “The fences are great here, I love them.”

Kaye, a former law enforcement officer, said he focuses on school safety management with a practical approach. He does not advocate for Kevlar door panels and bulletproof backpacks and whiteboards.

“Many school districts focus entirely too much on the active assailant and not enough on realistic threats,” Kaye said, noting there’s a .0001 percent change of a “bad guy” coming into school with a gun in the United States but a 100 percent chance of an earthquake or a wildfire—staff needs to be trained and prepared for responding to all hazards and emergencies.

Last year the district made improvements such as limiting access, (access to campus during school hours is through the front office only and all visitors must use the visitor check-in system), having staff monitor the gates during pick-up and drop-off, and having discussions with the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol and the San Diego County Sherriff about increased support. The district also conducted parent and staff surveys—a March survey revealed 58 percent of parents showed support for armed guards on campus.

Kaye’s recommendations included improving signage to assist in emergency response, installing the access control system, installing additional video cameras on campus, better securing the front office, utilizing the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol for large school events, conducting a traffic study with the County of San Diego, and additional staff training for emergency response.

Kaye said when looking at preventing campus incidents, the biggest differences are made not by door, locks or fencing but by the school culture and climate: “It’s proactive programs to identify at-risk behavior and then get them some help,” said Kaye, who emphasizes engaging with students, promoting a positive school climate.

According to Johnson, the district Safety Committee is expected to meet four times again this year to finalize the emergency operations plan and work toward presenting the updated school safety plan in March. Johnson said the district will annually review the safety plan.

The board plans to have a full presentation on the access control system at the October or November meeting, including the cost implications.

Scott Kahn selected RSF School board vice president

In August the board selected Tyler Seltzer to serve as the board president following Todd Frank’s resignation, leaving a vacancy in the position. At the Sept. 13 board meeting, the board elected Scott Kahn as the new vice president.

Seltzer nominated Kahn for his “exceptional qualifications,” his experience on the board and his unique ability to “diplomatically engage and dialogue with folks across the political divide.”

All positions will be selected again in the board’s organizational meeting in December.

Tom Barton nominated Sarah Neal for vice president, noting that it would be good for the board to have some gender diversity in its leadership. He noted that historically, the composition of the board has been predominantly male,-the only female board members over the last 12 years have been Carlie Headapohl, Marti Ritto and Neal.

“I feel like it would send a really nice message to the school community,” Barton said of appointing Neal as VP.

Neal said she didn’t want to create division over such a short-term position and seconded Kahn’s nomination—Barton then voted for Kahn for the decision to be unanimous.

“I do think as we move forward we need to consider additional leadership opportunities,” Neal said, noting it would be good to mix it up in the future.

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