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Roaring Fork Schools safety sessions seek feedback

Roaring Fork School District is hosting several meetings this week for families to give the district feedback on safety initiatives and meet some of the staff or community partners involved in caring for student safety. The meetings are an opportunity for the district to hear more about where stakeholders want safety resources to be prioritized.

The first meeting was held on February 26 at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

Attendance was slim, which concerned school officials and may skew their decision making data in the long run.

Carbondale Police Chief Kirk Wilson spoke at length about the importance of knowing what children are doing online, while School Safety and Security Coordinator Dustin Gehring mentioned his concerns about the open campus model.

Aspen Hope Center district partner Lily Larkin dove into the process of how staff address a student in crisis.

Interim Superintendent Anna Cole says that what sparked these meetings was feedback from the community on recent events.

“We've gotten feedback here and there in pieces from partners, from parents that felt like, ‘Oh, we didn't love your communication on this, or this wasn't very tight, this wasn't clean.’ It felt like we had a really good opportunity this year to kind of reset, and really reconsider some of these partnerships and practices,” Cole said.

“Additionally, and to be really honest, some of the partnerships where we have blended funding around school resource officers, school-based mental health, those funding streams are really unstable. And to continue those, we have to invest significant amounts of money, to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to keep these programs stable, and before we make decisions on that, we really felt like we needed to pause and hear from our community what the value was of these kinds of partnerships, these kinds of roles. So we really want to be thoughtful and collaborative in making those decisions and investments because they are significant,” she said.

“I know that the incidents like swattings and lockdowns have really scared people. They've scared our kids, they scared our staff, they scare us. In district administration, many of us feel like, ‘oh, these sort of things will never happen in our valley.’ I think that shook us a lot,” she said.

“We certainly have been talking about drug prevention strategies and have talked about using canines for facility sweeps of schools, and I know that our community is kind of a little bit mixed on that. We generally heard support in our January forums, but I think it will come up again in conversation. But at the end of the day, our first commitment is to keep our kids and staff and families safe. And so we just want to make sure we're doing everything reasonably possible in the world of safety.”

Cole says that open versus closed campuses are also a popular concern in safety issue resolution conversations.

for community members to leave their feedback.

Also in attendance was Cora Carballeira, the Dean of Culture at Roaring Fork High School.

“I've seen a change this year in our ability to close the loop with students. You know, when students make mistakes and we want to repair relationships, we want to bring them back into the school community, The Dean of Culture has a little bit more time than the Assistant Principal does to focus on the restorative process, the reentry process (and) really following through to make sure students are trying new strategies and are repairing relationships, which we know as we heard today are cornerstone of school safety as a parent in the district,” she said.

Carballeira identified substance use as a particular area of concern.

“We know it's out there and we know teens by nature are risk takers, and so that's something as a parent that I'm always asking my students about,” she said.

“I worry about normal things like driving. I worry about mental health, especially with our young men that don't feel as comfortable reaching out or expressing their feelings sometimes and tend to bottle that. And I worry about mental health, and like we mentioned tonight, having a trusted adult that you can talk to and connect with is super important, I think, especially for our young men.”

Carballeira says there are several factors to being a trusted adult.

“It’s someone who you can go to with problems, but also someone, I think in the school environment, someone who knows something about you outside of school, and you know they know that about you,” she said.

“You have this connection or this knowledge about something that's beyond the classroom.”

As Carbondale's English-language session was wrapping up, one family arrived early for the Spanish-language session.

Kimberly, a Glenwood Springs High alum, came with her father, Vincente.

Speaking through Kimberly as an interpreter, Vincente spoke about his biggest concerns and worries in regards to the safety needs of students.

“He's more concerned about the trust that's built on students. If there's like something going on, then he would like to have students reach out to a teacher or someone in the school and then that person to contact the parents and have more trust on that,” said Kimberly, speaking on behalf of her father.

“And also about security. If there's something going on, that the school gets on point on that, so kids won't have issues at school.”

Kimberly said Vicente feels there is not adequate communication between the school and parents when there is an emergency at one of the children’s schools.

“Pretty much the communication isn't on point due to many years of trying. My first year in high school there was a problem going on and there wasn't as much communication as he would like to have, and it wasn't the best experience at all,” said Kimberly.

Two more public meetings have been scheduled.

Tuesday, February 27 at the Glenwood Springs Middle School, and Wednesday, February 28 at Basalt High School.

English-language sessions take place from 5pm to 6:30pm, and Spanish-language sessions take place from 6:30 to 8pm.

All print materials are bilingual, and Convey Language Solutions has translation lanyards available.

More information and resources are available here.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.