Security Summit Highlights District Commitment to Student Safety

Photo depicts blueprints of the Powell Valley Elementary School improvements.

$13 million of safety and security improvements are coming to every school across the district, including Powell Valley Elementary School.

Safety and security improvements are coming to every school in the Gresham-Barlow School District. The district discussed plans for these improvements at a community summit last December.

At this “Security Summit,” the District invited Gresham’s first responders to review their plans for student safety. In addition to the four large school renovations, the district is spending $13 million for new safety projects districtwide. This money comes from the Gresham-Barlow School Bond approved by voters in 2016.

“Gresham Barlow School District is taking a multifaceted approach that addresses student safety. We are adding physical security measures, and we are also improving daily operations. These investments support a safe and secure learning environment for every student,” said Sean Spellecy. Spellecy’s company, New Dawn Security, is working with the district on this project. “Stakeholders should be proud of this unique approach to addressing school safety.”

The district assessed the safety and security merits of each school. Each school was analyzed and awarded points for physical security factors including the number of entrances, door locks and access for first responders. The average physical security assessment score for schools in the district will improve 24 points, from 28 to 52, on New Dawn’s physical security assessment 57-point scale. This study ensures Bond revenue targets specific improvements that will improve school security.

The plans for North Gresham Elementary include numerous security upgrades to ensure a safe learning environment for students.

 Building safe schools to protect our students from variety of emergencies

Reconfiguring and limiting the number of entrances to school campuses is a crucial component to improving school safety. The Gresham-Barlow School Bond funds improvements to many schools to create limited, secure, and staffed entrances. Securing campus access points makes it easier to monitor campus visitors. New doors at Gresham High will make it easier for the building to host evening events in the gymnasium while keeping the rest of the campus locked. The bond is also funding improvements to Sam Barlow High School’s campus entrance.  The building will have new features to allow the school to host events in communal spaces while keeping classrooms and the rest of the building secure.

Gresham-Barlow is also investing in significant upgrades to communication networks. New intercoms and radios will allow bus drivers to talk to district staff at individual schools while driving. These systems will provide significant improvements in connectivity for better communication between bus drivers and school staff during an emergency or power outage.

Other significant safety-related initiatives underway include:

  • Video surveillance. Plans for all four major renovation projects (East Gresham, North Gresham, Barlow and Gresham) include new cameras. Other schools will also receive new cameras at specific locations with high incident rates.
  • Bollards. The district will build raised planters around entrances to commons areas at certain schools.
  • Reviewing campus construction plans. Classes will still be in session during major construction projects. The district and contractors to ensure construction doesn’t impact the safety of students in class.

Improved Buildings, Improved Coordination Between Government Agencies


These improvements are also an opportunity for the city and district to to coordinate emergency plans. Better coordination ensures effective response during and after an emergency.

“Law enforcement officials are looking forward to the safety improvements that will cover Gresham-Barlow schools,” said Sargent Mike Amend, of the Gresham Police Department. “We think it will improve our response time and our ability to handle any potential situations.”

Kelle Landavazo, the city of Gresham’s emergency manager, stated her appreciation for the District’s focus on seismic preparations. In the event of a major earthquake, these safety improvements will make East County more resilient.

“These schools can become communication hubs and serve neighborhoods as points of distribution for emergency supplies,”said Landavazo.  She also acknowledged that many students rely on Gresham schools for services in support of their daily lives.

“Having schools operational immediately following a major earthquake will ensure our kids can receive the services they need. Knowing that our kids will be safe makes my job easier,” said Landavazo.

Safety and security improvements are already underway; many schools will receive new, internally-locking doors in the next few weeks. Major safety improvements are scheduled for this summer. The district is committed to fulfilling the intentions of the 2016 School Bond and investing in substantial safety upgrades for students at every school. Stay tuned to the Gresham-Barlow School Bond website for ongoing updates on safety projects and campus construction.