Joint GUSD, City Council Meeting Discusses Safety and Sports

By Brandon HENSLEY

In a special occurrence, the Glendale City Council and Glendale Unified School District held a joint meeting on Feb. 24 that was highly praised by its attendees from both organizations as being useful and necessary, as both boards called for more joint meetings in the future.

Inside the board room of GUSD headquarters, council and district members were presented with three agenda items: the progress of Glendale’s ONE sports program, the potential construction of soccer fields and the relationships between the police department and the city’s residents and schools.

Glendale Chief of Police Robert Castro and assistant superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Kelly King provided an overview of current collaborative projects between the schools and GPD. Castro said active shooter drills on campuses have been necessary and productive, because of the heightened threat to safety in schools across the country.

Castro said on Feb. 24 firefighters trained with police officers on active shooter drills.

“We’ve come to a point where firefighters are wearing bullet-proof vests and ballistic helmets. We’ve come to a point where Glendale police officers are now training in tactical medicine,” Castro said, explaining that the officers can now carry and administer medicine on scene before paramedics arrive.

“It’s a unique concept of fire and police really working collaboratively together, and by using school sites it helps us to prepare; the school staff knows what to expect when we arrive on scene.”

Castro said there is also a threat assessment team within GPD, consisting of law enforcement and state and federal assets. When a rumor of a threat occurs, or when a student says they might know of a threat, the team takes that information and assesses whether it is a false claim, or whether they can look into it deeper including through social media.

“I think it’s important for parents to understand that the level of collaboration … that goes into what we do to work together to keep the children safe is above and beyond what most cities have available to them,” Castro said.

After Castro and King spoke, Community Services Administrator Onnig Bulanikian provided a general update on the after school recreational program ONE, which was developed in late 2013 and aims to keep elementary school kids active and healthy from after school until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The schools currently taking part in ONE are Horace Mann, Marshall, Cerritos and Edison Elementary.

Program participation is free, and kids can play flag football, soccer, volleyball and basketball. Each program is held for eight weeks. There is also a nature education and outdoor recreational program.

Within these programs, Bulanikian said, kids learn the concepts of teamwork while building confidence and improving their diet and physical well-being. Edison Principal Carmen Labrecque said the effects athletics has had on some kids have been noticeable.

“I had one kid who was diagnosed with diabetes, early stages. And after this exhausting schedule that they have, she actually lost enough weight that she didn’t have to go through with [treatment],” she said.

Councilmember Laura Friedman asked about the activity arts and crafts, which is available on rainy days. She said maybe there could be activities that are non-sports. No matter what the kids do, Bulanikian said the focus is on lessons that can be applied to all facets of life in the future.

“We want the kids to stay. We do team-building exercises. We want the kids to grow in those eight weeks as a team,” he said.

Funds spent on the program for 2015-16 are $131,200. An expansion program to more schools for next year is being planned, and estimated to cost $305,547.

The next agenda item centered on construction. Jess Duran, director of Community Parks and Services, and Alan Reising, administrator of Facilities & Planning Development, provided information about two new soccer fields at Columbus Elementary School and Wilson Middle School, as well as new tennis courts at Glendale High School.

Funding for the tennis courts comes from the Measure S bonds, State Facilities Funds and City Capital Improvement Funds and Developmental Impact Fees funds. Construction will begin in late 2016 and is expected to finish in early 2018.

The proposed soccer fields would use funds from the Development Impact Fees (DIF) strategic plan. In 2007, the city adopted an ordinance that allowed the collection of parks and library development impact fees from new commercial, office, industrial and residential development.

The Columbus field would be 280’ x 140’ and cost $2.72 million for artificial turf, lighting, fencing and restrooms. The Wilson field would be 360’ x 200’, and cost $4.3 million. The adjacent basketball courts would need to be graded and resurfaced.

Council and board members did not speak in detail about each of the items on the agenda. Possibilities were discussed about how to improve the construction projects, as well as create more real estate for other Glendale-based projects, but more comprehensive discussion was shelved for another joint meeting, to be determined at a later date.