Country Day changed its safety protocol, updated its emergency response plan and modified the wooden gates lining the campus’ exterior this summer.
To improve security, the gates were upgraded with a plexiglass screen and a metal welding.
Second, visitors are now required to enter the campus through the lower and middle school office or the main office in the high school. Visitors are also required to check in and wear a badge during school hours.
Finally, the administration banned food delivery services for all persons.
“We modified the gates in order to funnel pedestrian and visitor traffic to the main entrances, so that we can have a better sense of who is on (the) campus at any moment,” head of school Lee Thomsen said.
Thomsen said the school has been considering changing the gates and fence for a while.
“In the master plan of the (new) middle school math and science building, there are drawings showing the fence going all the way around (the campus),” Thomsen said. “When I (came) here four years ago, one of the first conversations I had was about continuing the fence.”
According to chief financial officer/business manager Bill Petchauer, the gate modifications cost about $1,000. That, according to Thomsen, was the cheapest option the school considered.
“We were considering doing a major overhaul (by) finishing the wall (around campus) and creating a clearer entrance to the school,” Thomsen said. “(But) it would’ve involved cutting down trees and moving the main office door. It looked like it would’ve cost $400,000 to $500,000. And when we looked at the drawings and plans, we didn’t see anything we really liked.”
Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, said the gate installations took about three days to complete.
Thomsen added that a major fence extension would diminish the valued open-community aesthetic.
“We’re trying to balance that feeling of community with a reasonable degree of safety,” he said. “We could’ve built a 10-foot wall with barbed wire, (but that’s) not in the spirit of who we are.”
The security changes accompany the school’s existing camera system and on-campus California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers.
The emergency plan now entails a new protocol for when the fire alarm goes off.
Students and faculty will wait for a second alarm to ring before moving to the field, according to head of high school Brooke Wells.
“(Students) will wait for a second alarm, to be sure there is a fire and we know where the fire is,” Wells said. “This ensures that it’s safe to go to the back, instead of hearing the alarm and going straight to the field where the fire could be or another situation.”
The administration has been working on the new fire plan since last summer, Wells said. The plan was tested on Tuesday.
The move to ban food services and update the emergency response plan was recommended by the CHP, according to Wells.
“We’ve been fortunate to be working with the CHP,” Wells said. “(The) changes came out of meetings with them and their recommendations from years of professional security.”
Petchauer cited the “current environment” in America as a reason for the security change.
“As a result of last year’s external consultant review of the campus, along with other factors such as (school shootings) across the nation, the school determined these additional measures were appropriate,” Petchauer said.
Wells said the changes will keep the school safer.
“We have (good) communication amongst the team and (CHP officers) on campus,” Wells said. “All of that makes this campus very safe.”
Wells said the CHP ensured Country Day was not in danger when Jesuit and Rio Americano high schools were placed on lockdown on Aug. 27 after a suspect made threats on social media, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Country Day parent Elizabeth Monasa agreed that the changes have increased campus safety.
“I like seeing all the improvements they’re making, though I’d like to see more (upgrades) on the high school side (of campus),” she said. “I would be open to gates in the high school, kind of like what we have in the lower school. I’d like to see cameras added everywhere on campus.”
Freshman Tonye Jack agreed with the decision to ban food delivery services.
“You don’t know who is coming (onto the campus),” Jack said.
But sophomore Tina Huang dislikes the change.
“I don’t order lunch on Wednesdays, and the fact that they don’t allow DoorDash makes it (hard) for my mom to get me food,” Huang said.
“I understand (why the school) did it, but there are a lot of kids who don’t order lunch and don’t always have time to make lunch.”
Junior Avinash Krishna agreed.
“The school assumes that (food delivery people are) out to do the worst,” Krishna said, “which is to question the legitimacy of high-quality background checks. Postmates uses Checkr, which is also used by Uber and Lyft, as well as other food delivery companies. Oher non-student visitors are just as likely as Postmates (drivers) to cause harm on campus.
“Also, this effectively forces students to buy school lunches. (Food delivery services) give students (options). I think allowing (options) is more important.”
According to its website, Postmates conducts background checks on delivery drivers and rejects those with a history of criminal or motor vehicle offenses.
However, this does not matter to senior Charles Thomas.
“I just don’t think there should be a random guy walking around a K-12 school,” Thomas said.
—By Arijit Trivedi
Originally published in the Sept. 17 edition of the Octagon.