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Belle Fourche School District continues work to ensure student safety

March 11, 2018 GMT

BELLE FOURCHE –– Fresh on the heels of concerns raised about the school district’s safety protocols, the Belle Fourche School District continues to strive to provide a safe learning environment for the community’s children.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Willard shared with the Black Hills Pioneer Monday some of the precautions and trainings the district participates in to keep children safe at its schools.

Willard said that the main entrances at each of the four schools in Belle Fourche are secured, requiring visitors to utilize a video surveillance and/or phone system from the school’s exterior to gain access. School personnel ask visitors to state their business and have to be buzzed in by staff to enter the school.

Once a month, Willard said, he meets with district counselors, nurses, psychologists, and the school-to-home liaison to talk about student issues, concerns, and identifiable needs.

On a weekly basis, Willard said, he meets with building administrators to discuss potential student issues, concerns, and identifiable needs.

Willard additionally meets monthly with Belle Fourche Police Chief Marlyn Pomrenke and the Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere to discuss family issues, concerns, and additional identifiable needs related to student safety.

The district has a large security camera presence, which Willard said continues to be increased.

“Building safety is constantly reviewed to identify additional safety and security needs for our school district,” he added.

Discussions between the district and city officials are underway regarding the possibility of working jointly to reintroduce a school resource officer (SRO) into the district. The former SRO was terminated by the city in spring 2016.

Unannounced weekly officer walk-throughs are another possibility being discussed by authorities.

In the months of March and April, Willard said, that all schools will practice secure-in-place and lockdown drills monitored by law enforcement.

As for the notification of parents, the district utilizes an all-call system that can be activated in the event of an actual threat. Messages are sent via phone, text, and email messages.

“This is what we currently do and plan to do concerning security and safety,” Willard said. “We are planning other items that are in developmental stages at this time.”

Willard said that safety is and will continue to be among the district’s primary concerns.

“My grandchildren, my wife, colleagues, and their children are in our (the district’s) buildings, and I believe we are as prepared as we can be for an active shooter situation,” he said. “We continue to research and develop additional methods to protect our children and staff. Safety and security is the number-one priority in all schools in the nation.”

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