STOCKTON — In the wake of a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, school districts in San Joaquin County and the state have taken a look into safety plans to ensure they are prepared as possible should the worst happen.
“If there is an active shooter on campus, every second counts,” Stockton Unified Acting Superintendent Dan Wright said. “If we are able to shave one to two minutes on our response time, that keeps us safer.”
The state Department of Education announced that audit requirements on school safety plans will be required beginning in the upcoming 2018-19 academic year.
Local school districts must approve safety plans for all schools in its district by the first of March of each year. Safety plans are mandatory and help ensure that schools are not only prepared for emergencies, but also maintain safe and secure learning environments.
These plans also must contain clear policies to address hate crimes, acts of violence, discrimination and harassment.
Last month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sent a letter to school district superintendents and charter school administrators about the audit requirement, additional requirements and guidance for school safety planning.
“The safety of our children and education communities is our greatest responsibility,” Torlakson said in a statement. “When developing school safety plans, it is essential to reflect on lessons learned last year and to implement new and improved actions this year.”
Officials in Stockton, Lodi, Lincoln and Manteca districts share similar safety plans that range in forms of communication to parents, campus lockdown training and conducting multiple active shooter drills annually.
For example, Manteca Unified distributes its emergency notification protocol to parents twice a year. Throughout the course of an emergency at any of its 30 schools, officials will use robo-calls, emails and post updates to its social media pages and district website.
“Every day we endeavor to stay focused on learning in a secure instructional environment; however, we are prepared for the unexpected,” Manteca Unified officials said. “Planning ahead is our best safeguard.”
At SUSD, the county’s largest school district with 40,000 students, Wright and Emergency Response Coordinator Marcus Omlin have reviewed crisis response procedures that include: proper training at the district’s police department that has 36 sworn officers, regular contact with local law enforcement and districtwide active shooter protocol that is reviewed and practiced at least once annually at each school and each District department.
Wright said SUSD has increased security and safety precautions over the years. Officials will be discussing whether additional precautions are necessary over the coming weeks.
Said Omlin: “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it.”
Contact reporter Nicholas Filipas at (209) 546-8257 or email@example.com. Follow him on recordnet.com/filipasblog or on Twitter @nicholasfilipas.