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The Salida School District Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, welcomed a detailed report on safety from School Resource Officer (SRO) David Close.

Superintendent David Blackburn introduced Close and explained his efforts to further school safety. “I want you to have a chance to understand how Officer Close has turned spearhead [the program] and is the point person for this program….He has been doing a ton of training everywhere else as we have been trying to get better and better at taking this resource by working with the city and make this seamless thing.”

The reason for Close’s visit was to highlight the improvements to the school buildings and communication plans for daily routine security and in the event of an emergency. Some of the items listed among the improvements to the school buildings include colored hallways and room numbers on outside windows.

“I know in the news and media we hear about mass shootings, casualties, the damages and weapons cause all the time,” said Close in his opening comments. “Our response to that is we aren’t doing anything different. We are continuing to improve and develop plans and agendas we already have in place. … I’ve been working with all of the principals individually, with transportation, technology, maintenance, throughout the school district to improve and come up with a safety plan districtwide. It’s very complex and includes [Department of Homeland Security], counselors, the whole community. School Safety is not just my responsibility. It is the community’s responsibility. As Mr. Blackburn pointed out, I have tried pulling all of these resources together to have an overall plan.”

Close explained the reasoning behind the hallway color changes. “This is so any first responders coming into an emergency at the school, whether it be medical emergencies or an active shooter, we are all speaking the same language. We’re being directed by [the colors] through the facility the same way. The culture is being embedded into the school itself through the principals and the staff.”

This is the third season of an SRO presence in the Salida School District, the second season for Close. He spoke about the continual training he receives, attending programs that deal directly with school safety and emergency preparedness.

In addition to discussing school safety and readiness, Close touched on what he believes is the crucial SRO’s duty within the hallways of the school and interacting with the community.

“Most of my job, I believe, has been informal counseling and mentoring with students. We are not trying to write kids tickets. We understand it’s an educational environment where kids make mistakes as their brains are developing and exploring the world. I see myself as a resource to the school,” said Close. “How can I connect different aspects of the community to support the children? That’s what I spend most of my time doing; just trying to help students through their mission and their goals. I just want to help kids stay on track.”