Contact Us

School safety remains focus for La Veta school board

by Melissa Ray
LA VETA — The latest La Veta School Board meeting began with guest speaker presentation by deputy marshall Jim Chamberlain and town marshall Harold Willburn.
Chamberlain began by advising the board and audience that the combined experience of he and Willburn is almost 40 years.  Between the two, there is extensive military and law enforcement experience.  Both have been trained in Single Officer Entry Training, a program implemented in the aftermath of the Columbine school shooting.
La Veta school safety
The audience was assured the “The La Veta Marshall’s office would not be cowering outside if there were a situation happening inside the school.”  He then passed around the equipment owned by the marshall’s office for shooting situations.
Chamberlain also brought in an AR-15 rifle purchased by him for law enforcement use when he was first employed in La Junta.
In response to questions about law enforcement availability, it was explained that in La Veta, there is a deputy on call 24/7 and they are always armed.  Chamberlain lives three blocks from the school.
The average response time after a call is dispatched is 1 to 3 minutes.  There is not a time when both the marshall and deputy marshall are out of town.  Willburn and Chamberlain communicate with each other and dispatch about their location.  School superintendant Bree Lessar stated that the response time has always been timely when the school has needed them.
The best way the community can help the school with suspicious or concerning situations involving students is to utilize the “Safe To Tell” texting and emailing system.  Reports are 100% anonymous and sources are not revealed even to law enforcement.  “Safe To Tell” reports texts and emails to school administration and law enforcement simultaneously, so both are informed.
Discussions on safety also brought up frequency of drills, benefits, and who is included in the drills.  In addition to the marshall’s office, La Veta Fire and EMS are included as part of the School Safety Task Force.  Lessar stated it was important not to overdo drills as there is a sensitive balance between informing and terrorizing students.
Guns in the school?
School board member Matt Dobbs asked Willburn if, in his professional opinion, were the school to change its policy on concealed carry, if he would support teachers carrying guns.  Willburn stated he is pro-gun and he would support concealed carry for any teacher who was willing to have “extensive” training and not just the basic concealed carry course.
Chamberlain also stated that the decision to carry or not should be up to each individual teacher and not mandated.
Many more suggestions and concerns were brought up.  Possibly the most important point, brought up by board member Polly Neldner, was the importance of communication between parents, grandparents, and children and paying attention to changes in behavior.
Lessar notifies the marshall’s office anytime there is a student who has been suspended for more than a day.  Wilburn stated that either he or Chamberlain are in contact with those students and their parents.
Expounding on the communication point made by Neldner, Willburn stated that many situations have been averted and crimes solved by spending time in the park just talking to the kids.
Other board business
• Letters of resignation were accepted with regret for elementary principal Suzanne Pierce (retiring), first grade teacher Theresa Kimbrel (retiring), and high school voc-ag teacher Rachel Rheuby, who has accepted a position in West Idaho to be closer to family.  Rheuby will be on the team to choose and hire her replacement.  Many kind words of support and well wishes were spoken for all three ladies.
• The FY 18-19 master calendar was accepted with one correction in February.
• The certified staff schedule for FY-2019 was approved.
• A budget workshop was scheduled for April 27, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.
• A special meeting has been scheduled on March 14, 2108 at 8:00 a.m.
•Preliminary FY-2019 was presented for considerations
• School safety survey was discussed
• The school board president reported that the first Community Conversation was a success and recommended that they be continued.
• The S-CAP was awarded the William & Flora Hewlett Grant
The next regular meeting is scheduled in the La Veta School Library at 5:30 pm.