Lodi Unified school board reviews district safety procedures
By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Prompted by the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education examined the district’s safety and security plans during Tuesday night’s meeting in the James Areida Educational Support Center.
Chief Business Officer Leonard Kahn gave the report, along with Mitch Slater, director of maintenance and operations, and former Lodi Police Chief Jerry Adams, who helps coordinate the district’s annual active shooter drills.
Slater began by outlining safety measures such as single-point entry, visitor identification systems and ensuring that all classroom doors remain locked at all times.
Slater then explained that district staff review approximately half of all school sites each year to determine if changes to procedures are necessary, adding that eight sites were found with outstanding issues in the past year.
“What we first noticed, years ago, was that doors were open, people weren’t paying attention to what was happening around them. Compare that to where we are today — none of the doors were open, although some had locks that weren’t engaged,” Slater said.
Elementary schools are required to conduct four active shooter drills each year, Slater said, and secondary schools must conduct two. Schools may have more than the required number of drills, Adams added, at the discretion of each site’s administration.
Adams visits school sites to observe the drills and train staff, he said, as well as to physically assess each site and report to Slater each year.
The most recent drill at a high school was held at Bear Creek High School in Stockton last year, Adams said, and at Lodi High School the year before that. Both drills involved the cities’ respective police and fire departments, he added, as well as simultaneous training of the District Emergency Operation Center.
“We worked on training fire departments on getting into hot zones. A few years ago, the standard training was for fire to wait outside until SWAT had cleared the building before going in to rescue injured people,” Adams said.
“We’ve also adopted the procedure of keeping classrooms locked throughout the day. What we’ve learned from incidents around the country is that a shooter can be in and out of two or three classrooms in a couple of minutes,” he said.
Kahn informed the board that he met with five principals about the possibility of replacing locks at the district’s schools. The principals reported their current locks are functioning properly, Kahn said, and would rather the district spend money on installing additional security cameras.
Slater and Adams also spoke on the importance of cameras, saying that they proved invaluable during the active shooter drills.
“The Bear Creek exercise was unique because as we were viewing it from the live feed, we were able to tell law enforcement where to go, we could tell them where the shooter was,” Slater said.
“When we did the Lodi High scenario, we had the ability at that time to transmit real-time feeds directly into fire or police command posts where they can be seen by a SWAT commander. The district also had a great set-up. I think at one point we were viewing up to 41 cameras. From what I heard from police and fire, they were very impressed with our ability to do that,” Adams said.
Board member Ron Freitas applauded Slater and Adams for their work, saying that their efforts help the district achieve their goal of creating a safe atmosphere for students, staff and teachers.
“I think being on campus and having that presence is going to compliment our anti-bullying campaign and anti-violence campaign, and that’s going to give students the best possible environment in which to learn,” Freitas said.
Board president George Neely also commended the safety policy, saying that it is far more advanced than many other school districts. He also stressed the importance of not only training staff and students, but also reaching out to troubled students and getting them the help they need.
“The first thing we have to do is restrict entry. The second thing we have to do is teach people what to do when that security is breached. These drills aren’t just for students, they’re for the people responding, as well. The third thing we have to do is make sure that kids aren’t feeling bullied and like they want to respond that way, and that’s on us (the school district),” Neely said.