Oak Harbor School District plans forum on safety

The district is hosting a school safety forum with the Oak Harbor Police Department.

The Oak Harbor School District is hosting a school safety forum with the Oak Harbor Police Department to provide the community with information about ongoing efforts to keep students safe.

The forum is taking place at 6 p.m. on March 28 at the district’s administrative service center, located at 350 South Oak Harbor St. Live streaming will also be available.

Sarah Foy, communications officer for the district, said the goal of the event is to share more information with the community about safety planning and what collaboration between the district and law enforcement looks like.

The event comes about six weeks after a school shooting hoax drew a large response from law enforcement and other first responders and voters failed to pass a ballot measure that would have funded, among other things, construction projects to improve safety at all school buildings.

The Oak Harbor Police Department and the school district have long partnered on funding a school resource officer, who is mostly stationed at the high school during the school year.

“We work with the Oak Harbor police department, and also the fire department, on a routine basis to go over our safety plans and make sure that we’re all on the same page,” Foy explained.

After a presentation on current safety planning and recent updates, both school staff and law enforcement will be available to answer any questions from the community. There is a Google form where people can submit questions online before the event at bit.ly/schoolsafetyforum2023.

Foy said that safety in schools has always been a top priority for parents, teachers and school staff.

“I think it’s good practice for us to always have a space where we’re sharing information about safety and answering questions,” she said. “We’re trying to get into a better routine of proving that kind of information on a regular basis.”

If it had passed, the bond measure would have funded the creation of a single point of entry at each school where visitors enter an atrium and are then buzzed into the main building by the front office. The school board hasn’t decided yet if it will put the measure before voters again in the future.

Foy said creating an atrium system would be too expensive within the school’s current budget, but staff is looking for other solutions.

“We’re still trying to think if there’s more technology solutions that we could look into without having to do much facilities work to make that happen,” she said.

Another challenge facing the district is upcoming budget cuts. At a February school board meeting, Superintendent Michelle Kuss-Cybula announced about 5% of the district’s overall budget will have to be reduced in the next couple of months.

However, Foy highlighted some recent safety updates such as installing new PA systems, putting up fencing around all schools and giving the police access to the schools with keys. The district’s facilities director will speak about future safety updates at the forum.

Foy said the district is also focusing on prevention and creating a safe learning environment, such as putting together anti-bullying resources and online forms to report safety concerns before they become an issue.