Work is underway this summer at several schools within the Roseburg School District as efforts continue to improve safety and security for students and staff.
Construction workers are reconfiguring the main offices and entrances at Roseburg High School, and Winchester, Eastwood and Fir Grove elementary schools. Each of these schools are receiving “secure vestibules,” which will allow staff to better control access to classrooms and school grounds. Measures like this are being taken by school districts around the U.S. amid continued threats from intruders and aggressors.
“Students and staff deserve to feel safe in our schools so that they can learn and teach effectively,” said Superintendent Jared Cordon. “We are committed to doing everything possible to prevent and prepare for potential threats.”
Secure entryways for all schools in the district have been designed by local architect Paul Bentley and ZCS Engineering, with Roseburg-based H3 General Contractors handling construction for the four most recent projects. The entryways are the latest layer of security the district has added to facilities since summer 2022.
Additional steps have included installing perimeter fencing at all schools to control access, implementing new visitor management software, conducting staff training for active aggressor scenarios, and adding security staff. The first two secure entryways were completed within the past year at Joseph Lane and Fremont middle schools.
Former Fremont Middle School Assistant Principal Jake Hughes, who will serve as principal of Eastwood Elementary for the 2023-24 school year, said the Fremont community understood the district’s focus on safety and embraced the change last school year.
“Our students, staff, and families began to use the vestibule and, at times, this may make getting into the building a little slower,” Hughes said. “However, to date, I have not had a single question about the why behind this added security measure.”
Construction at RHS, Winchester, Eastwood and Fir Grove is expected to wrap up this fall. Construction bids for secure entrances at Green, Sunnyslope and Fullerton IV elementary schools are planned to go out before the end of July. Hucrest, Melrose and the old Rose Elementary School that houses Roseburg Virtual School and several partner programs are next in line.
“Our goal has been to update entrances efficiently based on the availability of contractors and materials, and with as little disruption to the school year as possible,” said Cheryl Northam, the district’s director of finance and operations.
Winchester Principal Meghan Pirtle expects the new entrance to be a great addition to campus safety and security. The new main office with the secure vestibule will be located on the Page Road side of the school.
“Our current office is in the middle of campus, which means visitors usually have to come onto campus before we even know they are there,” Pirtle said. “This means they are walking by our playground, classrooms, cafeteria, etc. before reaching the main office. With the new entrance, we can greet our visitors right away and be able to help them with their needs or support them with where they need to go.”
The district has committed approximately $2 million for construction of the secure entrances. With the failure of multiple school bond proposals that would have made wide-scale health and safety improvements at all schools, the district is using COVID relief funding to pay for the updates. These one-time federal grant funds, which are set to expire on Sept. 30, 2024, were intended to support schools through the pandemic and address unfinished learning, though districts are able to use a portion for facility improvements.
“Although school bonds are virtually the only way for school districts in Oregon to pay for new construction and major infrastructure upgrades, we have been able to leverage the COVID funding to take some of the steps necessary to secure our buildings,” Cordon said. “Our buildings are still in desperate need of other health and safety improvements, but at least we are able to get a start on these critically important safety investments.”
The remainder of the district’s share of COVID relief funds, also known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), has been put toward efforts such as supporting remote learning, additional staffing, disease mitigation, and the opening of the district's Roseburg Virtual School.
Pirtle, the Winchester principal, said despite the security upgrades, she wants parents and students to know that the school will remain the same welcoming environment it has always been.
“It is hard that we have to think about doing this with schools,” she said, “but we are grateful for the protective measures the district is taking to keep everyone safe so our main focus is for students to learn.”
- Safety and Security