Woodland Park School District Equips Facilities With Armed Security Guards

District Seeks to Improve Safety; Favors Weaponizing Trained Employees

Trevor Phipps

With a huge increase in school shootings occurring across the country, a common debate has centered on how to keep public educational facilities safe for students.

Some schools have implemented safety devices like metal detectors, while others have maintained that arming teachers is the answer.

The Woodland Park RE-2 District, in a series of announcements at the beginning of the 2023/2024 school year, outlining new developments regarding a slew of issues, opted for weaponizing certain trained employees.

More specifically, the Woodland Park RE-2 School District announced plans to update the district’s security policy by adding armed security officers to its personnel.

This marks a big change from past policies for schools in the Teller area, which have experienced their share of illegal drug woes, but haven’t experienced any shootings; although they have had closings due to fake bomb reports.

In the past, all of the schools in the district mainly relied on School Resource Officers (SROs) provided by the Teller County Sheriff’s Office and the Woodland Park Police Department. But before the school year started, they were informed that the police department would not be able to provide officers due to staffing shortages.


“After careful consideration and consultation with law enforcement professionals, WPSD has integrated trained and certified armed security personnel into its safety and security plan,” stated the district’s communications office, in a press release distributed recently. “These dedicated professionals must have completed rigorous training programs from law enforcement or other specialized training, ensuring they possess the necessary expertise to respond effectively to potential security situations.”


The press release (as well as an e-mail sent out to all district parents) stated that “all of the armed officers on school grounds will have special training to help uphold the district’s safety and security standards. The addition of the armed personnel is intended to complement the district’s existing security measures and to “ensure a rapid and coordinated response to potential threats.”


In their latest announcement, the district stated that the latest move came about because the safety of the students and staff is a primary concern for district officials.

“WPSD understands that the introduction of armed security personnel may prompt questions or concerns,” the press release noted. “WPSD is committed to providing a safe educational environment for its students. This decision is part of a comprehensive strategy that aligns with the district’s overarching goal of maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff.”


New Security Policy Generates Mixed Reviews


When the news first made headlines, residents seemed to have mixed feelings about the new policy. Some applauded the district’s move while others expressed their concerns on social media pages.


Even though it is still too early in the school year to give an overall verdict, the program seems to be working out well in its early stage, according to RE-2 administrators. “Recognizing that it is very early in the program, Woodland Park School District is pleased with the initial roll-out of armed security integrated into the school district,” District Superintendent Ken Witt said in a statement. “Feedback from parents has been very positive and appreciative.”


On local social media pages, many residents thought it was a smart move made by the district to ensure the safety in all of the schools. “I think it is a great idea,” said Florissant resident Chris Blinn.


Others, including staff members and parents who spoke to local TV news station KRDO, took the position that armed security guards could help improve school security. Jill Connolly, who is a parent of a student in the district and a teacher at Gateway Elementary School in Woodland Park, applauded the recent change.


“I think it’s a good idea with my daughter being so young,” Connolly told KRDO. “It’s nice to know that she would be protected if something did happen.”

These opinions mesh with much national sentiments, with the push for armed security at schools getting endorsed, especially by leaders of the Republican Party. The vast increase in school-related shootings has caused much angst among teachers, students and parents.

According to a report in Education Week, American schools have experienced at least 27 school shootings this year, resulting in deaths or injuries; and have been bombarded by 171 such incidents since 2018. And according to a report in CNN, the country has encountered already 400 mass shootings in 2023.

Despite these alarming statistics, not everyone is on board with this tactic. Opinions often vary regarding the best way for schools to address this threat.

Former student Zack Lindstrom who just graduated from Woodland Park High School last spring, was a little more hesitant about the new policy. “I would feel slightly safer (if the schools had multiple armed guards),” Lindstrom told KRDO. “I wouldn’t trust them, but I would trust them enough to protect me. I felt safe with the cops there, but there will now be more guards.”


In fact, some people in the community don’t think it’s a good idea and that it sends a bad message. Plus, concerns are raised about the expenses involved. Some have said on social media pages that having armed security is not needed since the district is small and there have not been a large amount of safety issues occurring within the schools in the area.


Others say that it is a poor way to spend the district’s limited resources. “No matter how much they are spending, that money could be used in a better way,” said Jessica Johnson who is a parent of a student in the district. “There are plenty of other things that the schools in the district need that the district could pay for instead of armed security guards.”


The district has not reported how much the new armed security program will cost the district or who will be providing the training. Witt did say that the money was budgeted since it was something they have planned on since the beginning of 2023. Details are still sketchy regarding how many security guards will be employed with the district.

School security is just one issue district administrators touched on during a series of announcements at the beginning of the year. They also have discussed their teacher shortage situation, especially pertaining to special education. In addition, the district plans to partner with an outside, third party for mental health services, a subject that generated much concern last spring.