By Conrad Dudderar
In response to safety concerns on school campuses, Yukon Public Schools has beefed up security across the district.
Students will return this Thursday, Aug. 11 for the first day of the 2022-23 school year.
Mindful of school shootings and other incidents that have occurred in other cities, YPS officials stepped up efforts to enhance security district-wide.
This features security cameras inside and outside all sites, and secured vestibules at building entrances.
“We want to make sure we know who’s going into our schools,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said.
“We are ‘opening’ schools up, but we want to be careful. … We have a lot of parents that are concerned about safety, and they really reached out to us a lot over the summer.”
Access will be limited as schools reopen for the new year – but previous restrictions have been reduced from a time when campuses were essentially “locked down” due to COVID-19 concerns.
Over the first week-plus of school, elementary parents will be able to walk their students to the classroom. The same for intermediate school parents for a few days.
“After about the first seven days, we’re going to go back to a semi-closed campus,” Simeroth told YPS board members at their Aug. 1st meeting. “We’re not going to just let everybody come in the doors and walk around the schools in the morning.”
It’s both a safety and instructional issue.
YPS sites will be able to start having assemblies again in 2022-23.
Parents will be able to have lunch with their children “by appointment” at school for special occasions like birthdays.
Also returning to schools this year will be Yukon Helping Hands’ volunteers.
YPS Board President Leonard Wells is glad district administrators have taken proactive steps to improve school security over previous years.
“You’ll always have concerns because there are people out there crazy enough,” Wells said. “If they want to get into a school, they’re probably going to be able to – no matter what you do.
“You’re never going to be ‘totally comfortable’, but I’m much more confident now.”
Meanwhile, YPS administrators, counselors, teachers, and other staff are completing active shooter training.
“This summer, we had all of our local law enforcement officers walk through each building so that they know access points (in case of emergency),” Dr. Simeroth said.
YPS officials remain confident the district’s four full-time school resource officers (SROs) from the Yukon Police Department provide sufficient security coverage for student safety.
The district’s cost to have SROs assigned to the schools has increased nearly $200,000 for 2022-23. YPS is taking on a larger share of this personnel cost from the City of Yukon.
The YPD’s non-emergency response time to a YPS site is two minutes maximum and 40 seconds for an emergency call, Dr. Simeroth told board members.
“That’s how many officers we have patrolling at any one time,” he noted.
On-duty YPD officers typically watch student pick-up and drop-off at the elementary schools.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma City Police and Oklahoma Highway Patrol help Yukon SROs respond at the two YPS sites outside Yukon city limits – Surrey Hills Elementary and Redstone Intermediate.