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No one enters McAuliffe International without a criminal background check. Nearly 80 volunteers are ready to make sure.

Seeking ways to keep danger out of the building, McAuliffe International has recruited nearly 80 parents and other adults to screen all visitors with an electronic background check before letting them in the building.

As of Monday (4/24), a volunteer is being stationed daily at the school’s front doors that face Holly Street. They run visitors’ IDs through an electronic security system that checks national criminal histories, in particular to find convicted sex offenders. One volunteer works from the start of school at 9:15 a.m. until 12:45 p.m., when an afternoon monitor takes over until school is out at 4:15 p.m.

Visitors must wait outside the school, located at 2540 Holly St. in Park Hill, until they are approved. They are then issued ID badges, and they must sign out when they leave. The staff wants to ensure everyone is accounted for throughout the day. Previously, visitors simply hit a buzzer and were let in after an office staff member viewed them through a camera.

New entry station at front doors of McAuliffe International. Volunteer Joe Phillips and McAuliffe office staffer, Hannah Bickford, checking-in a visiting parent Tues. (4/25).

Ullca Hansen, mother of a McAuliffe eighth grader and a board member of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone, took the afternoon shift on Monday.

“I appreciate how this community is trying to be creative . . . so I wanted to sign to up,’’ she says. “I hope lots of other parents will do the same thing, because that’s what it’s all about—our communities coming together.’’

Throughout the day, volunteers wearing bright yellow vests patrol the grounds to check that the nearly 20 exterior doors are locked and to provide a greater sense of security, Principal Kurt Dennis says in a letter to parents of the school’s 1,500 sixth to eighth graders.

So far, the outreach is paying off. At a minimum, Dennis says he needs 60 volunteers. By Monday, he had 76, with more expected.

“It’s fantastic, the response,’’ he says.

Parents, students and school staffs are outraged after the recent killing of a student at East High School and the shooting by an East student of two administrators. The staff members were performing a daily pat down of the student for weapons because he was on probation on a gun charge and had been expelled from school in another district.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero intends to release a new safety plan for the district by the end of June. But Dennis and his leadership team “talked about the things we could do right away to make a difference,’’ he says. “One of our biggest struggles is supervising who comes in the building. We obviously can’t hire more people to do that.”

McAuliffe also has a student who must be searched daily because he was charged with attempted first-degree murder earlier this year. Dennis has requested the student’s removal. The district has refused.

Such pat downs and other precautions are not uncommon in DPS schools for students in legal and other types of trouble. The district says it tries to balance the safety of all students while providing a troubled student with a public education.

Assistant Principal Micah Klaver and office manager Tammy Pittman  check ID information of a visitor Tuesday (4/25).

Following the East incidents, the DPS board reversed a 2020 order to remove sworn police officers, known as School Resource Officers, from schools. The board agreed to return them to 12 high schools for the remainder of the school year.

Other new security steps McAuliffe is implementing:

  • Using money raised by its foundation to pay for more security cameras around the large building.
  • No longer sell or include hoodies in its uniform clothes. Hoodies can make it harder to identify students and the front pockets can conceal dangerous items.
  • Add a half-time psychologist and hopes to bring on another social worker next year to give guidance to students experiencing difficulties.
  • Encourage parents to better supervise their children’s social media activity to prevent harassment and other problems.
  • Promote Safe2Tell, an anonymous reporting tool for students who know about potential safety issues. Reports are emailed and texted to more than a dozen McAuliffe personnel and DPS safety staff.

“We realize that these new measures do not address every issue, but we think it is a good start,’’ Dennis says in his letter.

To participate in McAuliffe’s safety efforts, volunteers must submit to a background check with Denver Public Schools. For more information on volunteering in general go to Volunteer Services on the DPS site.  


Editor’s note: The writer of this story, Brian Weber, also volunteered and worked the morning shift checking ID’s on Monday (4/24)

The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities produces and supports many Central Park public schools with grants for education programing.


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