LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – The Lake Oswego School District tightened security this school year, five months after a surprise visit from KATU found it to be lacking on one campus.
In April, KATU’s Dan Tilkin went to Lake Oswego Junior High after a parent complained of lax security. He spent 10 minutes inside the building, unchallenged by several adults with whom he crossed paths.
While some members of the school board were unhappy with our investigation, at least one seemed receptive to re-examining security at the school.
"I think the overall message which I sort of got in there was that it is a difficult, difficult issue, and we're never - it's sad we're at this,” said school board member Bob Barman.
Another recent spot check yielded better results.
Two KATU producers went to the same place last week, where they were immediately guided to the principal’s office to sign in for visitor’s badges.
The district began working on a revised safety plan immediately following last year’s mass shooting in Newton, Conn. Some staff members were quickly trained to deal with shooting scenarios and the district revisited its evacuation plans.
Over the summer, the district worked with Lake Oswego police to further increase safety measures. Officers toured each school and offered staff suggestions on how to improve district security measures.
“What we want to do is plan for the worst while hoping for the best,” said Lake Oswego police Sgt. Tom Hamann at a school board meeting for parents on Monday outlining its plans.
The district said it will also begin conducting monthly drills for staff and students that will focus on various emergency scenarios.
“Every school will be doing triage training, where every school nurse will come out and train our staff on triage skills,” said Donna Atherton, the district’s director of secondary education and the woman in charge of implementing the new safety plan.
Part of the plan takes its cues from Homeland Security. One strategy is called “Run, hide, fight.”
“We're not suggesting teachers take on an active threat any chance they get,” Hamann said. “That part of the plan, the fight part, is a last resort.”
Superintendent Bill Korach said the district is trying to balance safety with a school atmosphere that doesn’t become oppressive. Officials are actively seeking parental input, and requested that anybody with ideas contact their school’s principal or school advisory committee.
"Where's that sweet spot between becoming a prison atmosphere and attitude and having safeguards to have reasonable checks on who's coming in and out of your building?” Korach said.
Some aspects of the safety plan are being held close to the vest as a precaution. Korach said the district does not have the money to pay staff to watch school entrances and security cameras have limitations.
“A camera still has to have a person watching the camera,” said Korach. “With school districts and school funding that would to be a choice our school board would have to make.”
Read more: Outline of Lake Oswego school safety plan (PDF)
Security changes in the Oregon Trail School District: