School safety has been in the spotlight nationwide since the Dec. 14 shootings in a Connecticut elementary school. Joseph Heywood, director of Moab Charter School, addressed parents during a special meeting Wednesday evening, Dec. 19.
Parent Beth Logan said the information presented reassured her and others that school officials are doing all they can to prevent violence at the charter school. Heywood outlined procedures that are currently are in place and what might be done in the future, Logan said.
Upgrades will include adding fencing around the campus to guide visitors to the front office, Haywood said later during an interview.
“We have sort of an open campus, so we’re improving some of the fencing,” he said. “We’re reviewing our safety plan – our emergency plan – and making some revisions.”
Changes also include adding a communications system that allows school officials to text all parents in case of an emergency. Moab Charter School has communicated with parents via email in the past, but the upgrade will allow messages to be received faster, Heywood said.
Texting capability already has been implemented.
In addition, Heywood said changes are being made to improve the intercom system between classrooms and the main office.
“The goal is to make sure everything is working properly,” he said.
Moab Charter School has 105 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, with what Heywood called a “small” waiting list for some grades. Enrollment has grown steadily since he became director in 2008, and Heywood said the “rough goal” is to have 140 students eventually.
Enrollment is now capped at 20 students per grade, but the school’s original charter allows it to also include grades seven and eight.
Although there are no plans to add more grades immediately, physical expansion is on the horizon, Heywood said. The school recently received a $671,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with a $100,000 donation from a person who wishes to remain anonymous.
The campus has five buildings, one of which may be torn down and replaced, Heywood said. The others may be enlarged, although details haven’t been determined.
“All kinds of ideas are in the works as far as replacing a building,” he said. “Between now and August we should come up with plans.”
The USDA loan allowed Moab Charter School to purchase the property on which it sits on 300 South. Heywood said the purchase closed at the end of November.
The school has its own board of directors. Although it is not part of Grand County School District, the school follows the same state of Utah core curriculum and receives state funding. Students do not pay tuition and the charter school doesn’t receive local tax money.
There are about 80 charter schools in Utah with approximately 50,000 students, Heywood said. Some of those schools pursue educational specialties such as science or motion picture production, but Moab Charter School focuses on small classes in a small school setting.
Heywood said the local school is fortunate to have strong parental involvement.
“There are 20 to 30 core parents who are constantly in the school,” he said, adding that many others volunteer occasionally.