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School safety dominates La Veta School Board session

Safety was driving force for a new school campus
by Bob Kennemer
LA VETA — Ever since the Columbine incident, school shootings have been a harsh reality both in Colorado and around the country. School safety was front and center at the regular meeting of the La Veta Board of Education on February 12.  The recent threat and lockdown of Peakview and John Mall High School in Walsenburg was fresh in the minds of the RE-2 administration.
Apparently, neither La Veta Schools nor the town marshal were notified by the county sheriff of the threat and lockdown in Walsenburg.  This was a concern as it was believed that the threat could make its way to La Veta schools making school officials feel that, at the very least, they should have been notified.
The La Veta School campus has a public street running through its middle and the campus is comprised of numerous unattached buildings, requiring students to move between buildings all through the school day.  That leaves the students and staff open to a possible attack.  Once the school district learned of the incident in Walsenburg, the school went on what is called “lockout.”
According to RE-2 Superintendent Bree Lessar, a lockout is used for a more generalized threat, such as a bear or mountain lion being spotted on campus, whereas a lockdown is when no one leaves any classroom or building due to a serious threat like a shooter, severe weather, etc.  It was noted by several board members that one of the strong points in favor of a new school campus was school safety.  It is virtually impossible to make the existing campus secure.
A lengthy discussion followed primarily on the subject of how the parents get their emergency information and how the school notifies parents when an emergency is at hand.  “Rumors” appeared to be the dominant way parents learned about such things, although the school does have a notification system in place.
According to school counselor Rick Sciacca, the school has recently replaced an older ineffective system with a new system called School Messenger.  “This system can tell me who got notified when, and how the message went through to them,” said Sciacca.  He did say there are a few bugs still being worked out but the system seems to work well.  It was agreed the board needs to meet with the school administration to work on this issue.  In addition, it was agreed that a meeting with the sheriff’s office would be useful.
The LVBOE heard that the school’s varsity Knowledge Bowl team was doing well after winning a first place, which will allow them to go on to state on March 12 and 13. The school has both Jr. Varsity and Varsity teams.
In other business the BOE:
•Approved Greg King as the girl’s golf coach.
•Approved Lila Cordova, Fred Ferrari and Amber Huff to coach junior high track.
•Approved Zac Brunelli as a volunteer assistant coach for boys’ basketball.
•Approved a policy to allow parents to have their children opt out of state assessment testing.
•Approved the state assessment schedule.
•Voted to accept the terms of the BEST Capitol Construction Assistance grant for the proposed new school campus.
•Approved appointees to the Graduation Guidelines Committee.
The board also scheduled a work session with the La Veta Town Board on February 12. BOE president Ed Donovan said, “We need a better relationship with the town board.  Maybe we should meet quarterly?”  This discussion was, in part, due to the fact that the town will be involved in providing crucial infrastructure to the proposed new campus to be located at the north end of town.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for February 26, at 5:30 pm in the school library.