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Project Idaho: Assessing school safety

Vulnerabilities include anything that could have a negative impact on a school like building security, protocol, surveillance and hazards in the surrounding area. (CBS2 Staff Photo)

The Idaho Office of School Safety and Security has been working since 2016 to identify and provide guidance on safety concerns in all of Idaho's schools.

Manager Brian Armes says up until a few months ago they were right on track to finish by summer but things have slowed down.

"There's a good news and a bad news in that. The good news is we're getting a lot more calls for service from schools that we've already visited," Armes said. "That puts us behind a little bit to visit schools we haven't approached yet."

He says they're doing vulnerability assessments every day and while they don't have an exact count he says about 550 school have been assessed.

Vulnerabilities include anything that could have a negative impact on a school like building security, protocol, surveillance and hazards in the surrounding area.

It also looks at issues within the school community like health and mental health resources and how students look at problems like bullying in their school.

"The fact of the matter is once we are on a school campus and people understand how we can help them and assist them once they look at these vulnerability assessments, they're very interested in making changes. So a lot of times we come back we spend additional time with school administrators, with trustees, a lot of time safety committees that may have parents on it," Armes said. "So we're helping them to be able to overcome the vulnerabilities that our assessment revealed to them. "

On top of an increased call for service in existing schools, new charter schools are popping up every year. This is creating what Armes describes as an interesting challenge to resolve.

"A traditional school system has a lot of interior, internal supports. They build buildings all of the time. They know how to do that. They know how to get roadways situated in a community and quite frankly they have the funding to be able to do that. Charter schools a lot of the times are just trying to find space anywhere and so when they're looking at that type of facility they need a lot of help to maybe understand how to make it safer and more secure environment for the students they're bringing in," Armes said. "Our calls of service have gone up, we're able to help a lot more people we've got some great projects that we've been involved with unfortunately what it means is we're a little off track I don't know that we're actually going to get all 730 buildings taken care of and assessed this year."

Although there is a three year timeline Armes says it's really an ongoing process. After the first round is done they'll be back at each school to see how things have changed.

The full legislative report released by the Idaho Office of Safety and Security earlier this year can be found below.

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We are making a long-term commitment to reporting on education. If you have a story about Idaho education we should look into, email us at ProjectIdaho@kboi2.com

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