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Learning from lessons of the past

Training center draws law enforcement, schools from across the country

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One way the Jeffco school district is sharing its knowledge is through the The Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety — named after former Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis — which opened in the Martensen Elementary School building in Wheat Ridge in April 2017.

The facility closed to students in 2011 and now serves school districts and law enforcement agencies throughout the country as a training center to prepare for active-shooter situations, learn crisis-prevention techniques in a real-school environment and use a simulator that offers interactive training for a variety of school threat scenarios.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us to train with other school districts,” said Chris Wilderman, director of safe and sustainable environments for Adams 12 Five Star Schools, who trained at the center last summer with other staff from his district. “We talk, collaborate and work with each other because at the end of the day, we want to make sure all of us in the security world are doing what we can to keep kids safe.”

The center was the brainchild of John McDonald, executive director of security and emergency management for Jefferson County Public Schools. In its first year, 37 agencies and more than 5,000 officers trained at the DeAngelis Center. For McDonald, not only is this a way to share knowledge, but it’s also a way to give back to local law enforcement.

“This is the place where we learn the lessons of the past and we practice new tactics, techniques and strategies,” McDonald said of the center. “The greatest gift we can give law enforcement is to provide that opportunity to perfect their skill set. On our worst of days, we need law enforcement and schools security to be at their very best.”

Since the center opened, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has moved all of its tactical training to the facility.

“It’s an incredible training center,” said Cindy Baughman, deputy and sworn training coordinator with the sheriff’s office. Baughman said the center allows them to train on specific scenarios that improve skills in the field.

The ability for law enforcement and school security to train alongside each other offers the chance to have really hard conversations, change mindsets and add perspective, McDonald said.

“Active-shooter training is really evolving in this community of Denver metro,” McDonald said. “I think because of Arapahoe, Columbine, Deer Creek… everyone understands this is a responsibility and something we need to take ownership of.”

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