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School safety continues to be top priority for TUSD
school safety pic
The Turlock Unified School District has an established Safety Plan for each of its campuses and a Safety Cohort, which meets regularly to discuss issues in the district, as well as implement any needed revisions. - photo by Journal file photo

Turlock Unified School District was given a rude awakening three years ago when a local law enforcement officer decided to videotape himself walking around Medeiros Elementary School pointing out the site’s lack of security, such as short fencing, open gates with no locks and open classroom doors.

“Increased awareness and attention on staff vigilance, proactive measures with safety-related initiatives, improved training of personnel in specific areas, security improvements—locked doors, peepholes, strategic fencing improvements—have been placed at the forefront,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor.

Trainor said that following the wakeup call in 2012, TUSD established a Safety Plan and now has regular Safety Cohort meetings to discuss issues in the district, as well as implement any needed revisions. 

“Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe environment for students and staff members. If safety plans are not reviewed regularly, it becomes obsolete and therefore, ineffective,” said Trainor.

Trainor said that as part of its Safety Plan, TUSD has continued to station two School Resource Officers at both comprehensive high schools. However, both SROs are “on call” if a difficult situation were to arise at the elementary or junior high school campus.

“The SRO program continues to be an outstanding program for the district,” said Trainor. “If and when an issue comes up, the SROs are the immediate link with emergency services.”

To further ensure the safety of students and staff in the classroom, each school site must lock all classroom doors during school hours and TUSD is currently installing peepholes on all classroom doors that do not have a window.

“The reason is so that occupants will be able to see who is at the door in the event of a lockdown,” said Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson. “We want teachers to be able to identify students so that they may come in to the safety of a classroom while keeping any unidentified trespassers out.”

Richardson also said that fencing is currently being evaluated and recommendations will be reported this spring.

The Safety Plan goes as far as to cover playground supervision training, which includes education on equipment and trash hazards, open sight lines, and supervisor and student behavior guidelines. There is also a cross guard training program, which includes information on traffic scanning procedures and whistle warning techniques.

TUSD has continued to develop a very close relationship with the Turlock Police Department over the years, which has allowed the two-way communication to improve tremendously. As a result, TUSD is receiving information from TPD “almost daily” that allows the district to prepare for difficult situations more efficiently.

Trainor said that he thinks that it is extremely important for TUSD to receive professional development in as many areas related to safety as time permits in order to ensure a safe environment. This includes receiving “active shooter” information from TPD in order to prepare for all potential emergencies.

“Bottom line, the open lines of communication between the schools and TPD in conjunction with their ongoing support have provided a safer environment for all students, staff and community members,” said Trainor.

Facilities Planner and Safety Coordinator Roger Smith said that quarterly safety meetings that are held for site and district administration, as well as classified managers, are used to focus on current safety issues that may have recently occurred, review safety practices and policies, and provide specific safety training for managers.

“Participants are encouraged to bring up new issues, practices and concerns for discussion by the committee,” said Smith.

TUSD offers monthly integrated health services meetings as well, which according to Office of Student Services Gil Ogden are used to review updated education codes affecting health services, such as immunizations, epinephrine pens used for emergency allergic reactions and regulations concerning automated external defibrillators.

Ogden said that the goal of these meetings is to “provide ongoing training and support for staff to respond to a health-related condition before first responder arrives at the site.”