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Missoula superintendent ‘worried’ about K-5 staff and students

KGVO News reached out to Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson the day after a tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, claimed the lives of 21 people, including 19 students and two teachers, and 16 others injured.

Watson said he is deeply concerned about the MCPS District K-5 schools and their staff and how they are responding to the tragedy.

“One of the things that worries me is the impact on our staff,” Superintendent Watson said. “When this happens in a K-5 building like it happened in Texas yesterday, it’s very tragic and it really hits close to home with our K-5 staff. I know they’re doing their best. today to keep the children safe and comfortable and to advance their studies, but I know it also impacts the staff I anticipate that at the end of the day we will have staff who will be emotionally and physically exhausted.

With the Texas incident in mind, Watson was asked about recent safety upgrades across all MCPS schools thanks to the more than $150 million school bond that was passed several years ago. .

“One of the renovation processes was looking at school entrances,” he said. “Many of our schools had multiple entrances and the main door to the school was not very clear. For this reason, one of the big processes in this remodeling was to redefine and sometimes rebuild the main entrance to include a vestibule with secure doors through which people would check in and out. So now, if you enter our schools, you can enter through the first gate, but you cannot enter through the second gate without checking in and being notified by those security gates.

Watson continued its evaluation of MCPS security upgrades.

“Another piece went through all the exterior school doors and made sure they were magnetically locked,” he said. “It makes it easier to lock down. There is a lock button in the main office where you can lock all the doors at the same time. Then the final piece for our middle and high schools was to install more cameras in common areas, outdoor hallway areas and have a central location to monitor those cameras.

Dr Watson said the effectiveness of safety training and upgrades was proven by an incident earlier in the school year at Hellgate High School.

“I believe it was early this year that we had a lockdown situation that people at Hellgate High School may remember,” he said. “It was a good example of how quickly people responded. We had city and county people there, and a lot of other law enforcement, and they were there within minutes. So I felt pretty comfortable that we got a really good response from that.

Dr. Watson resigns as superintendent at the end of the school year to take up a teaching position at Helena.

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