The surplus should meet the security needs of the school

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As the systemic failures and oversights surrounding the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas have come to light in recent months, many have wondered: how safe are schools in northwest Montana and what can more to be done to ensure that such a tragedy never happens here?

Fortunately, local school authorities took quick action this summer to analyze these exact questions.

With the help of a remarkable $60,000 private fundraising effort, seven local school districts—Evergreen, Kalispell, Kila, Troy, West Glacier, West Valley, and Whitefish—collaborated to hire a consulting firm to perform individual security assessments. When completed, the reports will provide a comprehensive assessment of the physical security measures in place in each school building, as well as the corresponding procedures within the district.

More than likely, the report will reveal significant discrepancies between each district.

Schools built over the past decade were designed with active shooter scenarios in mind. They include strategic double entries, automatic locks and other robust features intended to stop an attack.

At many older schools, however, “you just walk in,” notes Emily Sallee, director of the University of Montana’s Safe Schools Center.

Having a professional assessment that identifies each district’s strengths and weaknesses is an important first step in fixing security vulnerabilities that could save lives.

The next step — and it is important — is to find the necessary funds to put corrective measures in place.

Building renovations, technology upgrades, and school resource officers come at a cost. And for rural schools constantly looking for enough dollars to meet minimum standards, an extra line item is simply unreasonable.

As the state legislature considers what to do with a budget surplus of more than $1 billion in the next session, aiding Montana’s school safety needs should be high on the agenda. priority list.

State grant programs could be created to help fund critical school resource officer positions, as well as active shooter response training and necessary building and technology upgrades.

Federal funding through the bipartisan Safer Communities Act — passed in the wake of the Uvalde shooting — is another opportunity not to be missed.

With safety assessments in hand, schools in northwest Montana will be well positioned to claim and use those dollars effectively and efficiently.

Kudos to community leaders who have taken a proactive stance in analyzing school safety needs. Let’s hope state lawmakers take the same aggressive approach to ensuring funding is available to keep our schools safe.

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