BEAVERTON, Ore. -- An elementary school in the Beaverton School District is getting a lot of attention for its new lunchtime security policy.
Parents are no longer allowed to eat lunch with their kids in the cafeteria. A spokesperson with the district said too many parents are doing it, and it’s become difficult for school staff to keep an eye on everyone.
Every week, Chen Wang volunteers at Jacob Wismer Elementary. She helps teach math.
“I have two kids. My daughter is in fourth grade and my son is in second grade,” said Wang.
She, like many other parents, received a letter from the school principal asking parents to drop off lunches for their kids at the office instead of bringing it straight to the cafeteria and eating lunch with their kids.
“They think about kids’ safety, so I think it's really good,” Wang said.
The letter to parents references the shooting in San Bernardino this week, where a man walked into a school, shot his estranged wife in a classroom, and then himself. Three people, including a student died.
“Anytime we hear of a tragic incident, I think all of our schools look at practices and what's happened,” said Maureen Wheeler with the Beaverton School District.
Wheeler said school officials have been thinking about making the lunchtime change for a while now.
“This tightening up of our practices around lunchtime, is because we have so many kids that we're supervising and having parents on top of that became a real challenge for the school,” said Wheeler.
While security sounds good to Mala Jain, she said she doesn't understand how as a parent, she's allowed to volunteer, but not bring her child his lunch.
“I appreciate keeping kids secure, but it doesn't make any sense to me. If the person cannot go into the cafeteria, how does that same person go into the classroom for volunteering,” said Jain.
But Wheeler said the issue is the sheer number of parents, sometimes more than 10, who visit their kids at each lunchtime. There are about 750 kids who attend the school, and a number of lunch breaks are held to accommodate the students.
“We still want to make sure that those parents will make their lovingly made lunches. Kids can still pick those up,” said Wheeler.
While the new lunch policy just kicked in at Jacob Wismer Elementary, other security measures are being phased in across the district.
“They're also going to be putting in card readers in the door so parents can be buzzed in and that type of thing, but those are some things that are down the road a bit,” said Wheeler.
Currently at Jacob Wismer Elementary, there are dividers that are set at the entrance to make sure parents and visitors are directed straight to the office before heading into the school.
The district is also working on building vestibules, or more sturdy partitions, that people can’t get around. They would also be meant to send people directly to the office.
The additional security measures in the works are being made possible by a $680 million bond that passed in 2014. $10 million is being dedicated to upgrading school security.
Changes will roll out over the next eight years in the Beaverton School District.
The following note was sent home to parents:
With the recent elementary school tragedy in San Bernardino this week, we have been reviewing our adult visitor policy and have made some changes that we feel are necessary for the safety and security of your children.
On the advice of our school safety committee and central office administrators, we will no longer be allowing any parents, relative or other adults to eat lunch with their children in our cafeteria effective tomorrow, April 13th. As you know the safety of your children is always our first priority. We do not feel we can adequately monitor the large number of adults who enter our cafeteria on a daily basis. Although the adults that have been able to eat lunch with their children in the past have completed a background check, we must have a certified staff member (i.e., teacher) always within sight and sound of the volunteer. We do not have this coverage in the cafeteria.
Another policy that we are changing is our late lunch drop-off procedures. Effective immediately, parents must drop off their child's lunch in the school office and not go the cafeteria. Students will be contacted to pick up their lunch in the office as their lunch period begins.
I hope you understand that these new changes are a necessary measure to increase the safety and security at Jacob Wismer. We appreciate your support and understanding.