Students walk to class at Schoenbar Middle School

Students walk to class at Schoenbar Middle School

In September, the Ketchikan School Board took its first look at a safety assessment of the school district. The report from Safe Havens International found many ways Ketchikan school safety needs improvement, from lax visitor access to outdated emergency plans.

On Wednesday evening, the School Board held a public work session to talk about how to deal with the dozens of recommendations in the report.

The Safe Haven’s report is more than 50 pages long. The majority of those pages is filled with suggestions for improvement.

Safe Havens Analyst Chris Dorn called into the work session Wednesday. He talked about three key areas for improvement. First, updating and enhancing emergency plans. The current school district crisis plan is 14 years old. Second, staff training.

“And that’s basically gonna be specific training on things like how to screen visitors and how to handle angry people, and how to handle different types of situations,” Dorn said.

The third area: physical security and security technology, which could include items such as new security cameras. School District Maintenance Director Mike Williams said the current school camera systems are failing and unreliable.

By the end of the work session, School Board members decided the best way to prioritize the Safe Havens suggestions is to break them into categories.

Board Member Stephen Bradford asked the Student Safety Committee to present the School Board with a list of low-cost, short-term improvements.

“Things such as how do we encourage each school to have 100 percent name badge identification on at all times,” Bradford said. “How do we help each school with their supervision, and access to empty rooms, those kind of things?”

Bradford says the safety committee also should prioritize expensive, long-term safety improvements. He says the School Board would need to present those items to the Borough Assembly to be funded.

“Do we want to recommend to the borough that they provide funding for better camera systems, card entry systems – those kinds of things that will require money?” Bradford said.

Board Member Ralph Beardsworth, who is on the safety committee, says they have some tough work cut out for them because there are so many recommendations in the report.

“It is a very extensive document and there is an awful lot in there,” Beardsworth said.

He says implementing the safety improvements is going to be a long process, and it’s unlikely the Board will ever say, “It’s all done.”

Members of the public can request a copy of the Safe Havens assessments from the superintendent’s office.