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SVVSD Turns Down Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Rifle Storage Request

September 14, 2018

Niwot High School English teacher Angie Roberts voices her concerns over the proposal to keep a rifle in a gun safe at Niwot High School during a community meeting in June. St. Vrain Valley School District this week announced it has turned down the request from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office and said it is instead looking at different ways to provide support, including adding another school resource officer to cover the school and Lyons Middle/Senior High.

The St. Vrain Valley School District is turning down the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office request to store long-range rifles in firearm safes inside two high schools.

Citing greater emergency response times compared to campuses within city limits, the sheriff’s office in April asked for permission to keep an AR-15-style rifle in locked safes inside Niwot High and Lyons Middle/Senior High.

St. Vrain hosted two community forums in June to gather feedback, with about 50 people attending the Lyons meeting and about 150 people attending the Niwot meeting .

The district also asked for feedback from students at both schools.

After the two meetings, district officials said there would be more community discussion this fall before the school board made a decision.

Instead, Superintendent Don Haddad announced at this week’s school board meeting that the district wouldn’t move forward with the proposal and referenced planned increases in school resource officers and counselors.

“We feel like we’ve landed in a very positive place,” he said.

The denial means school resource officers will continue to store their long-range rifles in their vehicles parked in school lots during the day.

At the two community meetings, people both in favor of the proposal and those opposed shared concerns, while student responses also varied.

Those in favor cited increased school safety, while those against worried about militarizing schools, adding to student anxiety and the potential for collateral damage to bystanders while responding to a school shooting.

Galen Scheidenhelm, a Niwot Elementary parent, said the district’s decision is good news.

“We should not be normalizing the militarization of public education, and the proposal was another dangerous step in that direction,” he said. “I’m thrilled to hear the proposal is on the shelf, and applaud all those who spoke up against it.”

St. Vrain spokeswoman Kerri McDermid said a lack of community support wasn’t the deciding factor in the district’s decision.

“It was just determined that we’re not going to move forward,” she said. “We’re looking at different ways to provide support.”

That includes adding more school resource officers, with an additional officer from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office starting this fall to cover the Niwot and Lyons schools. There now is a total of three covering schools in unincorporated areas of the county.

That officer that will be assigned to Lyons, Hygiene and Niwot elementary schools and will act as a back-up for Lyons Middle/Senior and Niwot High — reducing response times in an emergency — according to the sheriff’s office.

Districtwide, St. Vrain Valley has one school resource officer per high school. The plan over the next few years is to increase the numbers until there are two at each high school and one at each middle school, McDermid said.

St. Vrain Valley shares the cost of school resource officers’ salaries with the sheriff’s office and police departments.

The school district also is providing more counselors and mental health support, including adding a full-time counselor at each high school and enough positions so there is a counselor or a combination of a counselor and an intervention specialist full-time at each elementary school.

“As we experience student growth, we are increasing staffing in many areas of the district, including teachers, counselors, school resource officers, paraprofessionals and other support staff,” McDermid said.

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa

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