A recent audit is raising concerns about school safety measures in Washington state.
While state law requires school districts to come up with safety plans, there are “no mechanisms in place to ensure they’re complete,” according to the audit.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said his office is backing legislation to provide districts with more help and oversight putting together safety plans. House Bill 1216 would hire an additional 18 employees to work at Educational Service Districts across the state to help develop the plans.
“They would allow regional support for individual districts so as they build out their safety plan, instead of calling Olympia, they’ve got people right in their community,” said Reykdal.
The audit also highlighted how a budget cut might have made a state database of school campuses outdated.
In 2003 lawmakers approved funding to have maps, blueprints, pictures, and contact information for all public schools stored within the state’s Rapid Responder network. First responders use the system when responding to campus incidents.
State funding for the program was cut in 2016. Auditors said the cut had made the system “underutilized,” and potentially placed the “program in jeopardy.”
Steven Strachan is the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the agency that runs Rapid Responder. He said an estimated 10-13 percent of the system’s maps have likely not been updated since funding was cut in 2016.
“The problem is the legislature hasn’t funded new schools or remodeled schools for several years,” said Strachan. “Frankly, it’s an omission that’s a problem.”