Student safety highlights task force work


Student safety highlights task force work

Published 8:15 p.m. PT Dec. 19, 2016 | Updated 8:50 a.m. PT Dec. 20, 2016

Community members and Salem-Keizer School District officials are working to address safety, security and enrollment growth in local schools.

The district’s Citizens Facilities Task Force discussed these topics at its meeting Monday night.

The nearly 20-person group will review information in the coming weeks, ask questions and mull over the district’s options before they provide the school board with a recommendation to address an increasing need for more space and updated facilities.

“Schools have come a long way … but we still have a ways to go,” said John VanDreal, director of the district’s Safety and Risk Management Services.

When speaking to the subcommittee on safety and security, VanDreal said the objective is to “provide students, employees and stakeholders with the physical and psychological safety needed to promote healthy learning environments.”

He said studies show the impacts that physical space and perception of threats can have on a student’s ability to focus and learn. His recommendations are intended to send a message to people who want to harm others that they are being watched and that the students are protected.

Recommendations included relocating main offices of multiple schools; equipping schools with electric badge access and electronic surveillance improvements; improving lighting and visibility in and outside schools; and providing other exterior enhancements on a case-by-case basis, such as adding more perimeter fencing and signs on certain schools.

Some questions asked were, “What is too much, what is not enough when it comes to safety and security?” “What are some potential ramifications of (new) technological options?” and “Have we thought of how those (new technologies) could be used negatively?”

When looking at enrollment growth, the second subcommittee tracked feeder schools, looking primarily at the individual needs of elementary and middle schools adding to the overcrowding issues in high schools such as McKay.

District recommendations were presented to the task force by Michael Wolfe, chief operations officer for the district, but will be considered and adjusted by the task force.

The group asked questions like, “What is the estimated cost to move a 50-year portable (compared to buying more portables),” “How difficult is it to adjust boundaries of feeder schools?” and “What is the cost to maintain/repair portables versus buildings?”

Jay Remy, a spokesman for the district, said the task force will likely recommend one of the following options: change the boundaries of the district, add onto existing buildings, use more modular classrooms, or build new facilities.

“It was really interesting to me to see how many of our schools are already past capacity,” said Mark Bateman, task force member. “It was sobering.”

The task force will review the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan, potentially tour some of the schools and provide recommendations to the board for projects to be included in the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan when the group reaches a conclusion by March.

The group’s next meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 at 2450 Lancaster Dr NE, room 101. The public is welcome to observe.

For more information, go to or call 503-399-3000.

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at

Future meetings

All task force meetings are planned to start at 6 p.m. and last for about two hours.

  • January 12
  • January 19
  • January 26
  • February 9*

*Though February 9 is the last scheduled meeting, leaders of the task force said they anticipate one more meeting in addition, but it is not yet confirmed.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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