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Twin Fall School District discusses implementing 'armed security guards' in schools

The school district's administration want to add 10 armed security members to the staff for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — In the wake of multiple mass shootings, including one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers, schools around the country are prioritizing more security and safety in buildings, including Twin Falls School District.

The school board was presented with a proposal for the district administration to expand armed security within their school buildings.

"It's to make sure that all of our schools are covered all of the time with somebody who is trained in the skills to be able to do something if a situation may occur. Hopefully, we never see that around here, but it's one of those things that we have to be prepared for," Twin Falls School District Director of Operations Ryan Bowman said.

During Bowman's 22 years in education, he has seen drastic changes when it comes to security and safety in schools.

"I think about buildings that were built in our school district in the 1970s and there was no thought about security, whatsoever," said Bowman. "Schools were deemed safe places, nobody worried about it and today when we build schools or when we do renovations on schools, that's one of the top priorities. To make sure whatever we're going to do, it's improving security for our students."

Bowman said discussions of improving security in their buildings have been constant throughout the past five years. However, when the Texas elementary school shooting happened those concerns heightened.

"One of those measures that we've discussed is to add armed security at our elementary schools in particular," Bowman said. 

Currently, Twin Falls elementary schools share school resource officers (SRO) with high schools and middle schools, their focus primarily being the latter. Elementary schools get checks from SROs from time to time and visit the campuses upon administration request.

"Obviously, they can't be in multiple places at one time," Bowman said. 

The school district's current six SROs come from the Twin Falls Police Department, but Bowman said they're going to look in a different direction when it comes to new armed security in schools.

"[The police] run into the same situations that we run into with staffing and trying to have enough officers. Also, the cost would be very significant as well," Bowman said.

The school district administration proposed to their school board to use a private security company that would bring armed security guards to each of nine elementary schools in the district.

"The ones that we are looking at use retired law enforcement personnel who have been trained in these [school setting] situations," Bowman said. 

Bowman said the police department provided the district with a list of security companies they've vetted and worked with before in the past. The company will also work closely and collaborate with the Twin Falls Police Department SROs.

If the policy were to pass, middle schools and high schools would continue to have Twin Falls Police SROs on their campuses.

To pay for the private security company the district will use an influx of federal money, according to Bowman. He also expects if the proposal is approved the district will try for a supplemental levy on the March 2023 ballot to keep the program continuing into the future.

"It's very important to be able to get it going and get it started in order to provide that extra security and peace of mind to not only our students, but parents," Bowman said. 

Currently, all Twin Falls elementary schools have single-point entry meaning everyone has to go in through the same door.

"It forces everybody to come into the office before they enter into the school," Bowman said.

Bowman said unfortunately highlighting school safety and security to prevent tragedies now comes with the territory of educating kids.

"We're always evaluating what we're doing, how we can make it better and what things we need to improve on," Bowman said. 

The school board will review and discuss the proposal again at the next meeting on July 20. Bowman expects the board to make a decision then. 

If accepted, the positions would go into effect for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

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