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Jeffco hopes for better funding for school safety training facility

The Frank DeAngelis Center trains for active shooter situations and crisis prevention

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In the six months since the Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety opened, over 4,000 officer from 34 law enforcement agencies have trained there.

Named after former Columbine High Principal Frank DeAngelis, the center is located at the Martensen Elementary School building in Wheat Ridge.

Martensen opened in 1954 and closed to students in 2011. The school site has since been transformed into the first of its kind in the country: a training facility for local law enforcement and other first responders preparing for active shooter situations and crisis prevention in a school environment.

“It's a pretty extraordinary facility,” said Jefferson County Public Schools board of education member Brad Rupert. “It honors Frank very well as an important and honored leader in crisis in our district. I think it honors those who lost their lives at Columbine, it honors our commitment to the safety of our students and our staff, and it honors the partnership that we do have with our resource officers who provide a great service to us at no cost to the district."

The district currently offers the site at no cost to local law enforcement, and has also partnered with other area school districts including Denver, Aurora and Adams 12 Five Star to offer training.

But John McDonald, Jeffco's executive director of safety, security and emergency management, and Steve Bell, chief operating officer for the district, have plans to enhance the center's financial situation in the years to come.

One way of doing that is to create a nonprofit to achieve sustainable funding, said Jeffco Superintendent Jason Glass.

“We want to move it forward and enhance what we already have,” Bell said at the Board of Education study session Sept. 21.

To do this, he said they are looking to government agencies like the FBI and homeland security.

“We're not going out and competing with fundraisers at the schools,” Bell said. “we're going elephant hunting, for lack of a better term.”

Bell said he has already had discussions with state and federal agencies in and out of law enforcement as well as two state universities who are interested in developing training programs at the center with their criminology curriculum.

McDonald said this school year has started out with more significant lockdowns in Jeffco schools than he has seen in his tenure. Incidents range from a missing five-year-old to a man with a knife on campus. Last week, a suspicious person brought a gun into Bear Creek High School, McDonald said, but campus security was able to stop him.

“We are seeing an increase in security and emergency management needs and we're not alone, we're seeing this throughout the country,” McDonald said. “The training we're doing at the DeAngelis center helps us every single day we're responding to critical events.”

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