The Three Rivers School District Board of Directors convened for its monthly meeting Wednesday, Oct. 19. This month’s meeting was held at Hidden Valley High School in Murphy.
TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela gave a school safety report during the meeting.
“We walk every campus with an eye on security,” Valenzuela explained. “Like this room, right – what are the secure points? The windows, where you can exit, all those kinds of things we look at in every building.”
Valenzuela went on, “We’re working with staff at the schools to get their opinions and we’re writing that down. We’re coming up with general guidance district-wide, universal guidelines and then specific for the schools.
“In addition, we’re doing lockout and lockdown drills in our schools, where students and staff practice that behavior for if there is a situation.”
The superintendent contrasted lockout and lockdown, explaining that lockout entails fortifying the perimeter of a school if a threat presents itself in the immediate area. Classroom activities proceed as normal as long as the danger remains outside school grounds.
“We lockout,” Valenzuela said. “We secure the perimeter and we secure the outdoor doors, but teaching still happens and people are still doing their thing in classrooms.
“Lockdown is different. It’s when something is happening in the building right now and it’s on our campus. That’s where people secure where they’re at, so whatever room they’re in… We did a lockdown at North Valley and we went into the kitchen to try to find the staff and we actually never found them, so they did a great job of hiding.”
Classrooms are barricaded during a lockdown scenario, Valenzuela added, and students prepare to defend themselves.
In December and January, a pair of district-wide safety training events will be held for TRSD staff. Valenzuela stated district personnel will receive stop the bleed kit training and be involved in a “semi-live simulation” of a lockdown scenario.
“We’re looking for muscle memory,” the superintendent remarked. “You can’t plan for every situation but you can be better at reacting to whatever comes our way, and that’s our hope.”
Valenzuela recounted a conversation with Sheriff Dave Daniel earlier that day in which Daniel sought to verify the school district is being adequately supported in the area of safety. The superintendent called TRSD’s relationship with the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office “a great partnership.”
Following his safety report, Superintendent Valenzuela gave a rundown on how TRSD has spent federal COVID relief dollars.
“We had about $25 million to work with,” said Valenzuela. “We initially (added) 27 teachers district-wide so we could open up schools. We had to have smaller class sizes and spread students out so we hired teachers. We added over 12,000 feet of classroom space and some of that construction is still ongoing but that was some of the investment we made so we could provide more learning opportunities for students.”
Some of the other expenditures Valenzuela mentioned were single occupancy restroom upgrades district-wide, a family and community space at the district office, student transportation expansion and the addition of new routes, support for P.E. and music programs, mobile outreach vehicles with WiFi hotspot equipment so students without internet could participate in distance learning, textbook adoptions and contracting a sheriff’s deputy.
“So $25 million is a lot of money; these are a lot of activities,” Valenzuela said. “Let’s just say, when we went out for bond, we wanted roofs and some security, universal HVAC in our buildings… Just in roofing, we have a $32 million liability… Even if we were allowed to use all those dollars, we wouldn’t have been able to cover that liability.”
Valenzuela also pointed out that the expense of installing HVAC in all the schools would be $28.6 million, which is also more than the district received in COVID relief.
With so many expensive projects sought by the district and only a limited amount of funds available, the superintendent advised prioritizing safety and the urgent roofing repairs if the board votes to put bond on the May ballot, and dropping the HVAC project because it is less imperative. Valenzuela summed up his proposal by saying, “We could change our campaign from ‘safe, warm and dry’ to just ‘safe and dry’.”
During the board’s Say Something Positive segment, the board members praised the festivities of Illinois Valley High School’s homecoming week.
“I got to go to the homecoming football game at Illinois Valley High School and it was very cool to see the floats and the spirit and the pulled pork nachos,” said Zone IV Board Member Jamie Wright. “It was a very cool experience.”
Zone III Board Member Rich Halsted added, “Those were awesome nachos, by the way.”
Deputy TRSD Superintendent Casey Alderson echoed the nacho praise, calling the homecoming football game snack “phenomenal” and going on to say, “The pride out at Illinois Valley High School last week for homecoming week; the floats and the tour through town and seeing the community gather around that school is always fun to see.”
The next TRSD board meeting is scheduled to be held Wednesday, Nov. 16 at the district office at 6 p.m.