Colo. school board approves sheriff’s office request to store rifles in schools

Prior to the change, school resource officers stored their long-range rifles in their vehicles, which are parked in school lots during the day

By Amy Bounds
Daily Camera

BOULDER, Colo. — The St. Vrain Valley school board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow the Boulder County Sheriff's Office to store long-range rifles in safes inside two schools, Lyons Middle/Senior and Niwot High.

Before the rifles are placed in the schools, the board plans to review a detailed plan outlining safety measures — though the plan won't be shared in a pubic forum to preserve district security.

St. Vrain Valley Superintendent Don Haddad asked the board not to vote a second time, but instead trust him to ensure the plan meets the district's requirements.

"I will move forward and ensure that all of the safety precautions are in place," he said.

Those precautions include a biometric safe for storage, placed in a room at the school that can only be accessed with a key card through a single door that's equipped with an alarm. Only police officers would have access to the safe.

Before Wednesday's meeting, the school board discussed the proposal at two study sessions. In making the request at those meetings, Boulder County Sgt. Bill Crist said the two schools were chosen because of their geographic distance from other population centers, creating longer emergency response times.

He also said a rifle would be a much more effective weapon than a handgun in most active-shooter situations, especially given the length of most high school and middle school halls.

Now, school resource officers store their long-range rifles in their vehicles, which are parked in school lots during the day. There are three Boulder County officers covering schools in unincorporated areas of the county.

Crist said officers would most likely get a stored rifle if an outside intruder was trying to enter a secure campus. A student with a weapon already inside the school likely wouldn't allow for enough time to retrieve a rifle, he said.

The sheriff's office previously floated the idea in 2018. After hosting two community meetings and hearing mainly negative responses, the district turned down the proposal.

Those against the proposal at the time worried about militarizing schools, adding to student anxiety and increasing the potential for collateral damage to bystanders while police responded to a shooting.

In asking again, Crist pointed to recent school shootings, including May's shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed nineteen children and two adults. Haddad has said he hasn't heard the same level of opposition from the community this time around, likely because the continued shootings make the idea more palatable.

In other business, Haddad said the district is allocating an additional $3.5 million in this year's budget. One of the ways the district is spending the money is hiring a campus supervisor at each elementary school to improve security.

The money also will go toward a December salary increase for teachers and hourly staff members that will be retroactive to the start of the school year. On the capital side, the district plans to send the money on adding turf to the field at Silver Creek and on renovations and portable classrooms at Mead Elementary to accommodate growth.

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