By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
Board President George West wanted to know how safe Garden Grove’s public schools are. Is the Garden Grove Unified School District prepared in case of an emergency?
The answer, according Superintendent Laura Schwalm, is they are safe and ready and getting even more so.
Schwalm gave a staff report on safety in GGUSD at Tuesday’s meeting
Around four years ago, the district applied for a grant, which allows for open communication between schools and local law enforcement and fire agencies.
The public safety departments are provided with continuously updated layouts and schematics of schools and buildings to allow for better “situational assessment.”
Also, there better tools now reporting emergencies. Schools are equipped with two-way radios.
There is also an e-mail messaging system in place to contact parents, which will soon have the addition of text messaging.
The questions about the safety of GGUSD’s schools come in the wake of a mass killing in Newton, Connecticut where a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults.
Teachers and the principal at the school were killed, some trying to defend students.
“The teachers were really the heroes . . . it made me think of the profession of teaching,” said Bao Nguyen.
West said that all GGUSD workers are trained to act.
“When there is a disaster, we become civil defense employees and we stay at our school site with our school children . . . we are a noble profession,” said West.
Schwalm emphasized that the district has very thorough communication and planning in place to handle situations. When the news of Sandy Hook reached GGUSD, local law enforcement made contact and crisis outreach workers were brought in to help students grappling with fear and grief.
Schwalm said that parents were contacted and briefed as well on what was in place to help if needed.
“All of these plans are great but they will never be better than the people who make them work. They got the kids [on Monday] back into routine, made sure they felt safe in their schools,” said Schwalm.
As for more protection being put in place, it has already been on the docket for a while.
“Part of our modernization plan [the modernization bond] involves installing safety doors that can be locked from the inside but also can be freed without a key in case of fire,” said Schwalm, “We will be standardizing that across the district as we go ahead with modernization.”
The board members expressed their concern and sadness over the tragedy in Sandy Hook, with the board meeting opening in a moment of silence for those lost.
Linda Reed said that one of the most admirable traits of the members of GGUSD is the selflessness of the workers.
“They would literally lay their life on the line for our children, the bus drivers the custodians, not one of us has spared a moment, all of us have thought about it. I don’t think we can give enough appreciation to our workers and our staff,” said Reed.