A moment of silence was held before the start of the May 7 Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD) Board of Trustees meeting, in solemn reflection of the afternoon’s shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, Colo., which left one student dead — 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo — and eight others wounded.
Two suspects, 18-year-old Devon Erickson and a juvenile, were arrested and taken into custody by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. The two currently face a multitude of charges related to the shooting.
During closing reports, PVUSD Board of Trustees member Dr. Norm Guith reiterated safety concerns related to local schools’ public access.
“There was another shooting today in Colorado,” noted Guith. “And that reminded me that we had a safety meeting with the architect about two months ago. In that meeting, we were surprised to find out that 96 percent of schools in America — all through the country — had restricted access (of) the public to schools. And that we were one of the four percent that (the public) still has unrestricted access — through the office, at least.”
Last year, on Feb. 27, PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Charles Bush and Blythe Police Department’s (BPD) then-Police Chief Jeff Wade, as well as current BPD Interim Police Chief Joshua Coe, hosted a Town Hall at the Palo Verde High School (PVHS) cafeteria on campus security and safety.
The open forum highlighted current safety, security and response protocols officially in place, and further provided an opportunity for any follow-up questions, comments and feedback from attending parents and students.
As previously reported by the Times, an additional day-long collaborative active shooter response training session with district staff, principals and participating law enforcement also followed across PVUSD in April 2018.
However, at a June 2018 PVUSD board meeting, former PVTA (Palo Verde Teachers Association) President Mary Roberson shared Guith’s school site access concerns, suggesting cost-effective security access for individual classrooms; possible window security enhancements; instituting a visitor tracking and accounting program; and conducting active shooter drills.
On May 7, Guith formally requested an official update from the architect on school site access to be added as an item to a future agenda.
“For the last year and a half, I’ve been asking and the architect indicated at that meeting that he’d been working on it (but) I haven’t heard anything about it — about securing the office doors, and (having) some kind of electronic system of letting people in and out, so forth. So I’m concerned about that,” said Guith. “The shooting today reminded me that we’re not making much progress in that area — whether we end up with electronic doors or not, remains to be seen. But I don’t see the progress that should be made on behalf of our students because we’re supposed to provide a safe environment for (them.)”