“The first thing people say when they see the fence going up is wow, why? Is it that dangerous or are the kids that bad?” said Mike Mieras, Chief of Police for Washoe County School District. “But once we explain to (parents and Sparks residents) that it is for the safety of the students and the staff, they like the idea.”
Reed’s new secure perimeter marks the beginning of security improvements coming to all WCSD high schools in the next two to three years. According to Mieras, fenced schools can be locked down more quickly and more efficiently in an emergency than schools without them.
According to Mieras, if multiple schools needed to be locked down simultaneously given current security amenities there would not be enough personnel to lock down the schools without fenced campuses.
“What we have found is about 98 percent of lockdowns are from something occurring in the surrounding areas or neighborhoods near the schools,” Mieras said. “When we lock down a fenced school we force a single point of entry and we place officers at that point to protect everyone inside the school.”
The chain-link fence being placed around Reed High is six feet tall and will feature a single point of entry. Mieras said security perimeters will be different throughout the district given the size and shape of schools like Spanish Springs and Damonte Ranch high schools.
The cost of the security upgrades in high schools, in addition to updated lock and video camera systems in middle schools and other updates to older schools, come from the School Works program managed by the Capital Projects department of the WCSD. School Works is funded by a $92 million Rollover Bond that was that was voted on by legislature in 2002.
Elizabeth Wright, Director of Accountability and Finance for Capital Projects, said $15 million is being used in five major improvement areas for elementary, middle and high schools; including secure perimeters, single points of entry, door hardware upgrades, video cameras and public announcement system improvements. She said the importance of the upgrades extends beyond the schools.
“These projects are some of the best long-range forecasted projects that will be taking place consistently over the next two or three years,” she said. “We are expecting about 450 jobs to be created because of these projects and we have heard comments about how grateful people are we have started these projects.”
Wright said Capital Projects will put the architectural blueprints up for bid to construction companies as they are completed. She said some construction companies have shown confidence in hiring more full-time workers, instead of summer help, knowing that the construction projects will continue beyond 2012.
Wright and Mieras stressed the importance of recognizing where the funding for the improvements is coming from, highlighting the money being used for these improvements could not be allocated in any way to pay teacher salaries or offset general budget shortfalls.
“The parents we spoke with needed to understand it was not district funded and none of the money was being taken out of their kids’ education,” Mieras said. “Our goal is to provide the safest learning environment possible for students and staff.”