By DAVE THOMAS
When it comes to securing the campus for regulars and visitors, Helix Charter High School is all in.
Given the rash of safety incidents on school campuses nationwide over the last number of years, more schools are spending extra effort and resources securing their premises.
Helix (opened in 1952) for the 2021-22 school year spent approximately 10 percent of its annual budget towards campus safety and security through its School Safety Initiatives and Facilities Maintenance/Improvements.
According to Executive Director Kevin Osborn, the school has some 2,500 students on campus on any given day. The students are served by some 200 teachers.
The school has a strong working relationship with local law enforcement. A La Mesa Police Department school resource officer is assigned to Helix and they work with the school’s staff and the volunteer organizations like Helix D.A.D.S. to help create a safe campus environment.
La Mesa Courier recently caught up with Osborn to discuss the efforts behind keeping the school as safe as possible.
LMC: When it comes to securing the Helix campus, what have been some of the priorities in the last couple of years?
Kevin Osborn: In the Helix Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) our number one focus goal is creating a “Safe and Supportive Environment: Develop a Safe and Supportive Environment that Supports Social Emotional Wellness, Good Citizenship and a Healthy Lifestyle.” Safety in school begins with providing a warm, welcoming, and supportive environment. As such, every student is assigned to a grade level team in which a grade level principal, counselor, academic advisor, administrative assistant and social worker serve the class of students all four years; this allows families to have consistent support focused on their student’s growth, development, and success. In the last several years, Helix has hired five additional counselors/social workers to work with the four grade level teams to better serve the social-emotional needs of our student body. The Helix School Safety committee meets regularly to address our safety needs. Last year, we added a full-time manager of school safety and security, who is responsible for leading and developing a cohesive team of 7 experienced campus supervisors. The manager of school safety and security and other administrators maintain a collaborative relationship with the La Mesa Police Department’s school resource officer assigned to Helix as well as the LMPD leadership team. In addition, working with the Grossmont Union High School District, Helix has installed even more security cameras throughout campus. We are in the process of adding perimeter fencing in the front and back of the school.
LMC: How often during the school year do students/teachers/staff train for live shooter drills, fires and other potential safety issues on campus?
Osborn: We have 6 drills hosted by Helix and 1 in conjunction with local law enforcement for a total of 7 annual drills. Drills cover everything from earthquakes to active shooters. Helix has also hosted active shooter training done by countywide law enforcement agencies over the years.
LMC: If you’re the parent of a Helix student, how good should you feel about the security precautions school officials have taken?
Osborn: Helix parents should feel confident that student safety is one of our top priorities.
LMC: How much focus do you put on see something/say something both when students/teachers/staff are on campus and also anything they might see or hear on social media off campus?
Osborn: Our campus security team and all of our staff underwent a reminder training session before school started about the importance of stepping in when you see something. Students are encouraged to report any concerns they see to a grade level team member or another trusted adult on campus. For students who may be a bit apprehensive to come forward in person, the school has created an anonymous safety tip line to assist students in being able to easily “see something/say something”. All student hotline tips go immediately to the manager of School Safety and Security and other administrators who then appropriately address the concern.
LMC: Do you look at what other high schools locally or nationally do with security measures in considering what might work well for Helix?
Osborn: While we keep up with industry standards and norms, the reality is there is no cookie cutter approach to safety. Each individual school or district has their own set of problems or concerns. What may work at another school might not be the best approach at Helix. While reflecting on best general safety practices in high school, we develop our own approach utilizing some of these best practices and tailor our approach to best address the safety needs for our school community.
LMC: As tragic as these school shootings are nationwide, do they help to educate you and everyone else at Helix when it comes to hopefully preventing such an event on campus?
Osborn: Every school shooting that has ever occurred has provided us with some type of teachable moment or resource, whether it is in the analysis of what worked, what went wrong or what can we do to be better. These events have reinforced the importance of students and staff speaking up when they have concerns. Developing a warm, respectful, and supportive environment where staff, students, and our community feel comfortable coming forward to share their concerns is paramount in maintaining a safe school.
— Reach editor Dave Thomas at: Dave@sdnews.com.
Source: La Mesa Currier