Garden Valley discusses school gun options

Trained teachers and administrators in the Garden Valley School District will soon have access to guns inside their building.

The Garden Valley School Board met Tuesday to begin discussing how  guns will be made available in the case of an emergency.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll have guns,” board chair Alan Ward said. “I want everyone, including the teachers and the community, to have input on how we go about it.”

The board discussed options for having guns on campus, and heard from teachers who liked the idea, but the board did not make a decision. Ward said he’d like to invite experts in school safety to campus to talk to the board and the community.

Superintendent Randy Schrader is proposing installing biometric safes, which open by the touch of a unique fingerprint. No keys or passwords are required. Schrader wants to put three biometric safes in his building and train three to five staff members, who will have access to the guns in an emergency.

“We need something to fight them off with besides a pencil,” said Schrader, who intends to be trained and have access to the weapons. “The sooner we stop it, the less damage there would be.”

Garden Valley has about 260 students in grades K-12 and all are in the same building, which has three wings.

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“Everyone supports this as far as I know but we need to go about it the right way,” Schrader said. “Someone on campus has to be trained because it could take as much as an hour for emergency response to get here.”

Elk
This herd of elk hangs out near the school campus in rural Garden Valley.

Garden Valley is a rural community isolated on the Banks-Lowman highway, about 60 miles from Boise. The Boise County Sheriff’s Department is in Idaho City, about 30 miles and a mountain range away. The sheriff’s department has 11 officers responsible for policing more than 2,000 square miles from Eagle to McCall to Stanley. The ambulance and fire department in Garden Valley are made up of volunteers. The school district does not have a school resource officer.

Getting to an incident quickly is “a daunting task,” Boise County Sheriff Ben Roeber said. “We’re working with each school district and their unique needs to do the best we can for safety.”

Hunting and fishing are popular in Garden Valley. Schrader said at least four staff members legally have guns secured in their vehicles and that three staff members are retired military.

“I’m all in favor of the local school board making that decision,” said Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Cascade, who represents Garden Valley and nine other school districts.

In Eastern Idaho, Pocatello schools are equipped with gun lockers so school resource officers can have access to rifles and ammunition. All of the district’s school resource officers are armed with semiautomatic handguns. A trained officer could do more with a rifle than a sidearm.