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PAUSD addresses English department safety concerns after complaints filed


Following a Williams Complaint filed by the Paly English department, the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is currently in the process of addressing these concerns, regarding the security of the English building and the Media Arts Center.

The concerns in the complaint arose from safety issues in these building in light of recent incidents including frequent fire alarms and a lockdown last spring.

In many of the classrooms in the English building and the MAC, the intercom system wasn’t working and the windows of classrooms were not coverable, according to English Instructional Leader Shirley Tokheim.

Other safety violations included in the department’s Williams complaint included doors that didn’t lock from the inside, phones that didn’t work and emergency Red Cross kits that weren’t uniformly equipped.

Williams complaints are part of a California law that requires every school district provide a uniform process for people allegeding a district has provided insufficient instructional materials, unsafe or unhealthy facility conditions. It also can be used to address problems with  teacher vacancies and assignments

In response to the English Department’s formal complaint, the District’s business services drew up a written report on Oct. 8 explicitly replying to each concern with a fix.

In the letter, the District said all the window coverings and a glass wall covering in the Media Arts Center would be installed by Oct. 15.

“The complaint requires that the principal respond within 30 days. The District responded to the complaint with a list of steps they have taken, but from what I’ve seen, the work is not yet complete.”

Shirley Tokheim

Ron Ellis, the District’s director of maintenance, operations and transportation, has been overseeing the improvements as a result of the complaints.

“Because of the various sizes of door windows, the length of manufacturing time, and refinement needed, maintenance re-engineered this product and created a window covering device which was more suitable to our needs,” Ellis said. “These devices have been deployed in the identified buildings.”

Ellis said the maintenance team responded to the request of covering the windows on doors in case of a lockdown by installing shade coverings in most classrooms. The shade coverings include a list of lockdown procedures in case of an emergency.

“I think that the procedures are a bit overwhelming, but it would be helpful in case of a lockdown. I think that anything we can do to help us be safer is a good thing.”

Sophomore Sophia Krugler, who was on campus during the lockdown hoax

Although the District is not finished with resolving all the issues raised by the English department, according to Ellis, it knows that safety is top priority.

“Continuous observation and analysis of all PAUSD school sites and office buildings is a constant to ensure the safety of our incredible students and staff,” Ellis said. “The professional teams of maintenance, operations and facilities demand [safety preeminence through thoughts and actions] of ourselves on a daily basis.”

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