School safety topic of special CCSD meeting

Joshua Kellogg
"It's sad but now the reality is we have to deal with these things," said Central Consolidated School District Board Secretary Christina Aspaas during a Monday meeting in Shiprock.

SHIPROCK — Central Consolidated School District administrators took advantage of a special Board of Education meeting Monday night to update parents on how school safety is being handled across the district.

The special board meeting was called to address a number of incidents — including bomb threats — the district has encountered this school year, Board Secretary Christina J. Aspaas said at the start of the meeting. Schools in other districts in the area also have experienced threats of violence in recent months.

Cheryl George, a nurse’s aide at Tse’ Bit Ai’ Middle School in Shiprock, was one of a number of parents to share their concerns about school safety during the meeting.

George spoke to the board members about her concern for the safety of students at Tse’ Bit Ai’ after the school was placed into a lockdown from 9:28 to 10:05 a.m. Monday morning.

CCSD Spokesman James Preminger said a male student brought two pellet guns into the office of Principal J. Kaibah Begay. The student then gave the pellet guns to Begay.

The Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety responded to the school after being notified and the lockdown was lifted after the student was transported off campus.

Kirtland Elementary School was placed into a state of “shelter in place” from 10:03 to 10:47 a.m. on Monday after reports of gunshots in the area. San Juan County Sheriff’s Office  deputies investigated the incident and found nothing suspicious, according to Preminger.

Lucinda Charleston, a district health and wellness specialist, talked about the number of emergency situations that have taken place in the district since September 2015 during her presentation in the district’s board room in Shiprock.

There have been 15 instances of “shelter in place” precautions, six evacuations and four lockdowns during the school year. Seven of the “shelter in place” instances took place at Career Prep High School in Shiprock.

Some of the emergency situations were prompted by bomb threats found at with Newcomb middle and high school and Shiprock High School. Two threats of violence have also been made against Newcomb High School since November 2015.

Aspaas said she thought the school board was doing its part to ensure school safety but the number of incidents this school year has raised concerns.

“We found that there were some things that needed to be worked on,” Aspaas said.

Rannita Henderson of Little Water, who is the parent of two children attending school at Central Consolidated School District schools, speaks Monday at a meeting in Shiprock that addressed recent threats of violence at the schools.

The special school board meeting coincided with the closure of schools in Naschitti and Newcomb on Monday so school staff and district administrators could attend safety training at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

Newcomb elementary, middle and high schools along with Naschitti Elementary School are operating with “shelter in place” restrictions through the rest of the week, after a bomb threat was discovered at Newcomb Middle School and a theat of violence was found at Newcomb High School last week. Sports and other after-school activities are canceled at the four schools through Saturday.

Charleston led the meeting by explaining the district’s school safety plan and the steps that have been taken this school year and last to address school safety.

She spoke about developing safety plans for each school and bringing in law enforcement to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the district’s safety plans.

Charleston and interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman both spoke about the district’s efforts to create a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. Bowman said the district had drafted an MOU and presented it to the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety last month but have not received a response.

Almost a hundred people attended a meeting held Monday evening in Shiprock to address recent threats of violence in Central Consolidated School District schools.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.