School district focuses on

improvements in student safety

By Lloyd Call 

Associate publisher



MANTI—School safety was a major topic of discussion at the South Sanpete School District board meeting last Wednesday.

The board reviewed a report that the Utah School Superintendents Association requested from the Utah Governor’s office.

The 2019 survey showed that throughout the state, including Sanpete County, schools have made significant progress investing in safety measures to protect students, teachers and schools. One safety concern was controlling access to schools. Of course, most schools were built in a time when people could enter schools through multiple doors. Having “controlled access” means doors now have security limiting access. Schools with controlled access went from 41 percent in 2018 to 74 percent in 2019.

Other security measures included updating interior classroom doors with door locks, which went from 60 percent in 2018 to 83 percent in 2019. Schools having camera systems went from 86 percent in 2018 to 89 percent in 2019.

Assistant district superintendent Ralph Squire said upgraded cameras are making a big difference in South Sanpete schools. “We now have cameras on all the buses as well,” Squire said. “It has helped us solve a lot of problems during transportation of students.”

Schools conduct drills during the year, and the percentage of compliance went from 94 percent in 2018 to 99 percent in 2019. In high schools, the totals went from 71 percent in 2018 to 73 percent in 2019, and 37 percent to 44 percent in elementary schools throughout the state.

Other challenges facing schools include specific problems based on urban or rural environments. Rural schools can have longer distances between schools and first responders, affecting response times.

Students are also at risk as they travel between buildings on school campuses, or to athletic fields. School administrators and teachers need to enlist the support of parents if these situations create security risks.

The board also discussed that the real challenge in South Sanpete schools so far has not been terrorist or shooting threats, but the mental health needs of students, which may generate violence. “We know that we need to protect students from other students as well as outside attacks,” district superintendent Kent Larsen noted.

In other items, the board noted that Central Utah Education Services, serving seven districts, had chosen Mark Otten, out of 900 teachers, to receive the Teacher of the Year Award. Otten is a math teacher at Gunnison Valley High School.

The board also discussed concerns with district funding as the state approaches the legislative session, which begins at the end of January. The governor has recommended a 4.5 percent increase in the weighted-pupil-average, but that doesn’t mean the legislators will agree with that increase. There is also a move to change constitutional protection of education funding, a proposal that has some districts nervous.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 11 at the Ephraim Middle School at 3:30 p.m.