It's Monday and the kids were back in school after a weekend at home. But today was different than most Mondays. It comes on the heels of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Parents and students are worried. They are wondering if the schools are safe.
Locally that is hard question to answer. Many school districts have decreased the police presence on their campuses in order to balance budgets. In the Sacramento region that means that there is a police presence at most high schools and at some middle schools, but rarely at elementary schools.
At least one school district has completely eliminated its police contract citing budget problems. Instead a handful of staff members have been trained and designated as school security.
Mark Ghilarducci of the state's Emergency Management Agency is recommending that district leaders review security plans. He asks - at the very least - that they talk to their staff about school safety in light of the tragedy.
"Some of the most heinous plots to do harm to our schools and communities have been thwarted by the simple actions of alert and prepared individuals," said Gilarducci in a letter to administrators.
San Juan Unified is one of the districts that plans to review its emergency procedure, said spokesman Trent Allen. "We're sitting down this week to look at what happened in Connecticut to see if we need to look at safety," Allen said. "We will review all our process and how often we practice drills."
Currently, San Juan Unified is part of a Safe Schools Program partnership with Citrus Heights Police Department and the Sacramento Sheriff's Department. The district partners with the law enforcement agencies for officers to patrol its 70 schools. There are generally six or more officers on patrol at the district's campuses. They are primarily at the high schools, but drop in periodically at the district's middle and elementary schools as well, Allen said.
"Please take this opportunity to stress to your student the importance of reporting any suspicious activity, threats of violence, or unknown individuals on or near our campus to an adult immediately," said Steve Hunt, principal of Arcade Middle School in a letter to parents.
Most districts have security plans in place they say will keep kids safe. Some are outlined on their web sites, while others opt not to reveal their plans for security reasons.
Here are a few links:
Folsom Cordova Unified - http://www.fcusd.org//site/Default.aspx?PageID=2511
Elk Grove Unified: http://www.egusd.net/students_parents/safety.cfm
Sacramento City Unified: http://www.scusd.edu/safe-schools-security-services