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Mancos School Board Weighs Campus Security Options, Considers Arming Staff

Austin Cope

The small town of Mancos has never seen a violent attack on its school campus, but its school board members said during their Monday meeting that because of other attacks and school shootings recently, they want to be proactive.

“I lie awake at night thinking about this a lot,” said board president Blake Mitchell. “One of my major, major concerns is these people sitting at the table with us put in a situation that will alter their life,” he continued, gesturing to the three principals of the Mancos schools who were at the table.

Board Treasurer Tim Hunter said that other small schools in the West like Dove Creek have provided special training to staff members or administrators to carry firearms. The board says Mancos could do the same. But Hunter said that the training was not a simple process like obtaining a normal concealed-carry permits.

“The training, dedication, and mental mindset to do that—it’s not just somebody saying ‘yeah, I can carry a gun around school,’” Hunter said at the meeting.

Hunter and most of the other board members agreed that it can be very difficult for someone to make those life-changing decisions under pressure, especially if the person involved is somebody they know.

As an alternative or possibly in addition to arming administrators, the board discussed hiring a school resource officer, or SRO. Mancos Elementary School principal Cathy Epps mentioned how the Dolores SRO allowed students to talk about issues they might not otherwise mention to an administrator, like suspicious behavior or crime outside of school. But district superintendent Brian Hansen said that the chances of finding funding for an SRO were close to none, because there is so little grant funding available for those positions.  

Many of the board members supported both the firearms and SRO options. But they agreed that they should keep considering ideas before they made any final decision. Board member Monty Guiles said he wanted to have more information—and input from the community-- before making any final decisions.

“We discuss what color to paint the hallways with the public, so we may as well talk to them about this as well,” Guiles said.  

The board talked about hosting a public forum in the future to hear from parents and members of the public. And though they did not make any final decisions, they said they hoped it wouldn’t be too late before they did.

Austin Cope is a former Morning Edition host for KSJD and now produces work on a freelance basis for the station. He grew up in Cortez and hosted a show on KSJD when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2010, he lived in Belgium, Ohio, Spain, northern Wyoming, and Himachal Pradesh, India before returning to the Cortez area. He has a degree in Politics from Oberlin College in Ohio.
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