OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with Oklahoma City Public Schools responded to new concerns about student safety on Monday.
“Obviously, it’s an issue nationwide. We have individuals that would like to come into schools, and do everyone harm, from our kids to our teachers and anyone that’s around,” said Ed Allen, President of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.
Voters said yes to a school bond issue back in November of 2016.
$4 million, of the $180 million bond, was allotted for additional safety measures at the entrance of schools.
So far, they haven’t been able to add one of those new safety vestibules.
“None of those have been completed, and the reason being is you can’t hold school and block off an entrance” said OKCPS Dir. of Communications, Courtney Morton, “In some instances, it would require a lot; in other instances, not so much, but it’s hard to do those types of projects when kids are in school.”
Morton says another factor delaying construction is the new “Pathway to Greatness” plan.
“They didn’t want to make any upgrades or purchase anything or install anything to a building that potentially could close,” said Morton. “Because of the Pathway to Greatness, being day 1 ready, was more important in that current time to make sure that we could hold school” she said.
Only $68 million of that total $180 million dollar bond has been sold.
“When a bond passes we don’t automatically get that money, so it’s not like, oh, now we have $180 million in our bank account,” she said.
The $68 million is going toward new H.V.A.C. units and 72 news buses.
Morton also added other projects, like athletic fields, don’t impact projects like these.
“There’s a long process for actually selling the bonds, receiving that money and then going through our normal purchasing process we do bids, and we have to get permits and there’s plans and there’s all kinds of things that are required,” said Morton.
School staff says more bonds should be sold next spring.
They’re planning to install those new security vestibules next summer.
“It puts several checkpoints between a person and actually entering the school,” said Morton.
In the meantime, school staff says they take the issue seriously and have upped current security.
They wanted to be careful about what they disclosed, focusing on the safety of students.
Morton tells News 4 they’ve added campus security officers to multiple campuses, cameras inside and outside of every school, and security specialists to every school.
“We know a lot of our students come from difficult home lives, possibly, and so if the district can provide them that one place then that’s a huge win for us to make sure that that student knows they can come to school and they’re safe and have a successful learning environment,” said Morton.
A former educator we spoke with also says schools should focus on cell phones and social media.
“I think we mainly need to focus on general conversations about how you make good decisions, how you control your own destiny and if you build those trusting relationships with those conversations, and somebody is interested in shooting up the building, you’re far more likely to have people come and volunteer that information,” said former teacher, John Thompson.
OKCPS agreed, saying they’re also focusing on having those conversations with their students, and monitoring activity online.
They also stressed the community aspect of safety and urge anyone to call (405)-587-SAFE if you see or hear anything.
For more information on the bond, you can click here.