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School safety investigation: Columbia, Blair Oaks and Eugene districts


ABC 17 News asked for 41 Mid-Missouri school districts' security plans, maintenance records and expenses ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.

Among them is Columbia Public Schools. The district had 18,527 students enrolled last school year attending classes in nearly 40 school buildings.

CPS did not provide its maintenance records for door and lock repairs, security expenses or lockdown policy, citing exemptions to open records laws.

The district's safety and security team director John Whitehead gave a presentation at a school board meeting in June about security upgrades the district has made since 2018. Here are some of the expenses Whitehead presented:

  • District-wide camera system: approx. $1 million
  • Secure vestibule construction: approx. $3.5 million
  • Total security upgrades: approx. $6 million

Whitehead also talked about security systems and procedures the CPS safety and security team will use this year. Here are some of those procedures:

  • A.L.I.C.E. active shooter training for students and staff
  • Keycard access for all Columbia Police Department officers
  • Seven armed security coordinators

Teachers are responsible for locking their classroom doors and CPS Superintendent Brian Yearwood said there will be a higher frequency of door checks to hold teachers accountable. He also said if teachers don't follow door-locking protocol, there will be more training.

"My level of confidence there is cautiously optimistic but I must go back to we must not lose one scholar to the tragic situation that happened in Uvalde, that would be terrible," Yearwood said.

ABC 17 News still seeking some records and safety policies.

Blair Oaks R-II

Blair Oaks has 1,236 students enrolled this year and also did not provide ABC 17 News with maintenance records, expenses or its lockdown policy, citing open records law exemptions.

The district said that last school year there was one lockdown on May 3 that lasted from 10:45 a.m. to 11:33 a.m. It said that the district resumed classes after the Cole County Sheriff's Office escorted the students in question off campus.

It also provided other district policies that deal with safety and security.

Those policies include:

  • Visitors must report to the principal’s office.
  • The maintenance team must upkeep facilities.
  • Principals decide on designated safe areas in buildings for lockdowns.

Cole County R-V (Eugene)

Cole County R-V in Eugene has around 600 students and also did not provide ABC 17 News with maintenance records, expenses or its lockdown policy, citing open records law exemptions. District leaders said there were no lockdowns last school year.

Eugene's safety policies are similar to those of Blair Oaks.

ABC 17 received security documents and responses from more than 15 school districts and will release the details on more districts' safety plans every day this week.

Article Topic Follows: School safety

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Sarah Higgins


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