BURLEY • Inside Mountain View Elementary School, the classrooms have gained doors.
And doors will start appearing in Declo Elementary School during spring break
The projects are a simple step meant to improve student safety. Both schools were constructed in the 1970s with an open-classroom design.
“As school emergencies have occurred across the country it’s become very apparent that being able to secure students within a classroom behind a locked door is one of the preventative measures we can take as a district, and yet we have two schools without walls and doors,” said Gaylen Smyer, superintendent of the Cassia County School District.
Mountain View Principal Delia Valdez said 10 donated doors have been installed at the school so far. Seven rooms still need doors.
“We decided to put the doors that were donated on classrooms nearest the exits for safety reasons,” Valdez said.
Nikki Beck, president of Mountain View’s parent-teacher organization, said after the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., she was compelled to approach school district officials and ask that doors be installed on behalf of all the students.
“Safety is at the top of our minds in the PTO. It’s all about the safety for our children,” Beck said.
The open classrooms were constructed under the premise that teachers could more easily team-teach and move from area to area rather than have the students change classrooms.
“The concept didn’t really work for long and soon they started trying to partition themselves off from other classrooms,” said Smyer.
Bookshelves and dividers were added to close in the classrooms, but there was no way to add doors to the divided spaces.
Smyer said after the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident, the district had Cassia County sheriff’s deputies walk through the district’s buildings and make safety recommendations.
“Although we don’t have walls, the police said the barriers were still sufficient to separate an aggressor from that classroom of students if there was a door,” Smyer said.
Ten doors were donated to Mountain View by the Unity Church of Latter-Day Saints after the church was remodeled, Smyer said.
The school district hired a carpenter to frame the door jambs and exterior walls, put in sheetrock and to paint.
“I can’t believe how quiet it is now when you walk down the halls, and the teachers say their classes have bonded more since the doors were added,” Beck said.
Valdez said she expects the remaining classrooms to get doors before spring break.
Declo Elementary is already on a list of buildings that the district believes need replaced.
In 2007, the district hired an engineer to compile a list of projects in the district in preparation for a construction bond issue that voters rejected.
“He told us it was better to tear down the Declo school and start over,” Smyer said.
The district has tried to make repairs to buildings that need to be replaced without putting too much money into them, he said.
“As these school emergencies have occurred I’m glad they haven’t happened here but they have occurred elsewhere and that means that were vulnerable also,” he said. “So the safety issues became a priority.”