PORTLAND, Ore. — Tuesday marked the first day of class for students in the Beaverton, Tigard-Tualatin and Salem-Keizer school districts.
But parents aren't just thinking about their kids' new teachers and schoolwork. They're also thinking about their kids' safety, especially in the current climate where many of us hear too often about mass shootings.
"It's really disturbing," said Shirley Brock, principal at Five Oaks Middle School in the Beaverton School District.
Over the summer, school districts across the region continued to add security measures to schools.
Portland Public Schools
A bond measure helped pay for security improvements at Portland Public Schools.
"Card readers, timed doors, vestibules when you walk in," said PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, as he listed off improvements.
A vestibule is basically an area with locked doors on two ends where people are screened before they're let in the building.
"This has been our most productive summer ever," he said, referring to overall construction and improvements district-wide.
At many schools, there are additional security cameras too. After being closed for remodeling over the past couple years, Grant High School in Northeast Portland just opened with those new security features.
"Even at some of our older schools, you'll see the addition of some card readers at some entrances, a changing out of locks," Guerrero said.
The district is dedicating about $5 million to upgrade school security systems across the district. It’s a part of the May 2017 Health, Safety and Modernization Bond. Security work on all schools should be complete by the spring of 2020.
This year, roughly 1,000 Portland teachers from more than 20 schools also got training on how to stop bleeding.
"It's another step to student safety," said Stephenson Elementary Principal Carlos Galindo.
The pilot program out of Oregon Health and Science University is a first of its kind, combining the national 'Stop the Bleed' program with Portland Police's critical incident training.
Schools participating got kits with supplies like tourniquets, gauze, and gloves.
The goal is to expand the training to the remaining 50 or so PPS schools over the next year. Then after that, program officials want to train teachers in other districts.
Beaverton School District
It has been a busy summer at Five Oaks Middle School.
"We're creating a new vestibule outside of the building with double access. They're viewed by a camera and then they're led into the building," said Jessica Pavelka, construction project manager at Beaverton Schools.
Five Oaks also got card readers, so teachers don't have to fumble with keys to get in.
Also, in the summer of 2018, work began to remove nine outdoor portable classrooms. With the construction of new spaces within the building, kids won't be walking outside to get to their next class.
"We have these kids longer than they're at home and we want to make sure that every student is safe," said Five Oaks Middle School Principal Shirley Brock.
In addition, Pavelka said the doors in about 2,000 district classrooms have been upgraded, allowing teachers and students to lock the door from the inside.
"A lot of classrooms you actually had to reach out and lock it from the outside," she said.
The security upgrades are being funded by a bond that voters passed in 2014. All work is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2020.
When all is said and done, Beaverton Schools will have a combination of remote door unlocking, keyless entry, security cameras, fencing, and vestibules.
Salem-Keizer School District
Further south, there's a new head of security for the Salem-Keizer School District. He used to be a cop.
"I was a sergeant for Salem police. I was there for 17 years," said Cliff Carpenter, who just took over as the director of safety and risk management for the district.
Carpenter's plan is to create meaningful relationships so parents and kids can feel safe reporting unsafe stuff they see at school.
Before taking his position with the school district, he oversaw school resource officers. But he knew he was interested in education. For years, he has worked toward fulfilling the requirements necessary to work the for the Salem-Keizer School District. He has been attending college for the past seven years, has finished his bachelor's degree and is now close to graduating with a dual Master’s Degree in Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
As for the physical security changes, thanks to a bond, the district is investing about $20 million in safety upgrades over the next handful of years. This summer, a secure entrance was added to Gubser Elementary.
"We want to make sure there's person-to-person contact," said Lillian Govus, spokesperson for the Salem-Keizer School District.
Schools across the district will get security upgrades to the front entryway, electronic card access for teachers, electronic locking doors, and a two-way intercom system. Like in other districts, some schools will also get vestibules.
"You come in one set of doors that are locked, the other set remains locked until you get approval from the office manager to fully enter the school," Govus said.
A number of projects will also remove outdoor classroom portables, like the ones at Douglas McKay High School, and replace them with a new building with additional classrooms. The reasoning is so that kids don't have to walk outside, and it's difficult to keep portables secure during an emergency situation.
Govus said when the work is complete, there won't be a single school in the district that didn't receive upgrades.
Vancouver School District
This year Ogden Elementary opened its doors after being completely rebuilt thanks to a bond voters approved in 2017.
"I know with our newer schools now we've got more secure entrances than in the past," said one district official in a video posted to the Vancouver Schools website.
Most schools in Vancouver have locked entries or will have them within the next couple years. There are cameras and visitors have to go through the office before they can enter the rest of the school.
Lake Oswego School District
Schools in the Lake Oswego School District have received a new system this year that identifies registered sex offenders by running driver's licenses before they step foot in school hallways.
Safe Oregon Tip Line
Districts across Oregon and Washington continue to improve and update security measures at schools, but kids and parents in Oregon have an additional safety option they can use. The program is called Safe Oregon. It is a statewide tip line that allows parents, teachers, kids, and the community to report anonymously.
People don’t have to call. They can go to the website to report a tip. Other ways to submit an anonymous tip to Oregon State Police is through the mobile app, e-mail, or text message.
Schools must be signed up to utilize the program’s services. Public and private schools in Oregon can sign up for free.