An LCAP meeting hosted at Escalon High School this past week drew a large crowd and covered a range of topics, from funding to school safety.
In light of the mid-February deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida and the planned nationwide student ‘walkout’ to heighten awareness of school violence on Wednesday, March 14, much of the LCAP discussion did touch on safety.
“Safety was a big priority that night,” Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa said. “We talked about what we can do to improve safety.”
Costa said all district campuses now are enclosed by fences and they are also looking at installing additional cameras for monitoring comings and goings on the campuses. The added cameras would be utilized at school entry points and have a dedicated monitor inside the school building as a precautionary measure.
“We’ve also discussed changing the way we run fire drills,” he said, noting that now, when the fire alarm sounds, students immediately leave class and file outside. Aware that they could potentially be put in harm’s way out in the open, Costa said they are reviewing the fire drill policy and determining how they can modify it to still insure student safety.
As far as students participating in the March 14 walkout, Costa said about 100 left classes at El Portal Middle School and walked out to the school blacktop at the 10 a.m. observance time. At EHS, where they had an advisory day schedule, the bell rang at 9:59 a.m. – a minute before the scheduled 10 a.m. walkout – for the 10-minute scheduled daily nutrition break on campus. Students returned to class at 10:09 a.m. but Costa said a handful of students, eight altogether, left class at 11 a.m. for their own observance, drawing attention to the solidarity walkout an hour later, not as part of the nutrition break.
Students that walked out were given unexcused absences, said Costa.
“I understand their concern,” he said of the students walking out. “Frankly, I have the same concerns but I think there are other ways for us to resolve it.”
Still, he said, the district is aware of the students’ rights in making their position known.
“They were unexcused for the time they were out,” he said. “But we can’t get in the way of those rights.”
The superintendent said the widely touted ‘Walk Up, Not Out’ movement that sprung up alongside the walkout is something he would like to see students embrace.
That effort suggested befriending someone who sits alone at lunch, including all students and offering encouraging, supportive words to fellow classmates.
“When people feel included, they have self-worth,” Costa said. “If we have students that are suffering mentally or emotionally, we need to stay on top of that.”
To that end, he said the district will be adding a school psychologist next year.
Meanwhile, those parents and local residents attending the LCAP meeting were also able to look at district programs and goals, providing input to the administration.
“We had 35 to 40 community members, parents and staff members participating,” Costa noted. “They gave us a lot of really positive feedback, our goals continue to be having our students college and career ready, providing the appropriate staff and appropriate tools to accomplish that, and involving our community.”