All parents, staff and visitors of the Orcutt Union School District will be required to wear badges, and campus access gates will be locked as the district attempts to bolster its already-established security policies.
The push to tighten visitor policies has come about in the first few weeks of classes this semester, with teachers and administrators all pondering the same questions in the aftermath of December’s deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s made all of us kind of stop and take stock,” said Joe Dana, director of charter programs. “We don’t necessarily have answers. Do we lock doors or not lock gates? What do we do?”
In an attempt to address fears, Superintendent Bob Bush has been meeting with district administrators and law enforcement to determine the best way to keep children safe in worst-case scenarios.
Bush has sent multiple letters home to parents asking them not to enter campus before or after school to pick up children, and all access gates that can be locked are secured.
All parent volunteers, who often know and greet staff by name upon arrival, will be required to sign in and wear badges.
Staff who haven’t been wearing their own previously issued IDs will also be reprimanded if found without them, Bush said this week. Those badges are being made free of charge in the district office, he added.
“We’ve been a little lenient,” he said, referring to the open nature of the small district of about 4,500 students in preschool through 12th grade. “I think parents really understand ... it’s something you do now. It’s not new. It’s just being followed more closely.”
Bush cited a recent event at Ralph Dunlap Elementary, at which nearly 300 parents were present and signed in to wear name tags without complaint at a “Lunch on the Lawn.”
Orcutt also hopes to invite law enforcement to future emergency drills to critique.
“What happened in Connecticut was horrible, and it was something that you never want to see happen at a school,” Bush told Noozhawk. “Some random person walking into a first-grade class and shooting kids is not the norm. It did wake us all up. You’d like to say it could never happen here, but you can’t.”
Monique Segura, a kindergarten teacher at Alice Shaw Elementary and teachers union president, said Monday was the first day that she walked her students outside the school gate for parents to pick them up.
“I thought it ran smoothly,” said Segura, who has daughters who attend Orcutt Academy High. “It’s a good thing. I think most of our parents understand. I haven’t heard anything negative at this point.”
She said she’s been locking her classroom door during school hours for a number of years, and that law enforcement told her that was a good idea during one of the roundtable discussions because it “minimized opportunity.”
“If the gates are all open, somebody could just walk in off the street,” Segura said. “Our No. 1 priority is safety of children.
“I don’t think there was one teacher that didn’t walk in that first day after break and run over in their head what they would’ve done,” she continued, noting that Newton shooting rocked educators at their core. “Most teachers are not trained in that type of reaction. Now you kind of have a mindset as you’re teaching.”