Eatonville schools open with emphasis on safety

Eatonville School District teachers and staff pose for a drone photo ahead of the first week of the 2023-2024 school year.

Eatonville School District teachers and staff pose for a drone photo ahead of the first week of the 2023-2024 school year.
Eatonville School District

Last week, Eatonville teachers and staff welcomed students back into their classrooms with a renewed focus on safety. 

Superintendent Jay Brower and Police Chief Jason LaLiberte came together to discuss the benefits of a partnership to ensure the safety of our students.

As stated in district communications, “Safety of our students and staff is our top priority.” 

The five Eatonville schools now have upgraded security at the main entrances, including keyless entries, interior and exterior cameras, remote entry and intercom systems. There will be continuous surveillance and all exterior doors will remain locked at all times. 

Employees can enter using a badge or cell phone app. Visitors will have to be verified at the main entrance which can then be opened remotely. All of the school systems are tied together to create one security system to ensure student and staff safety.

Additionally, the school year started with a professional development day for all staff on August 29. The district held a Welcome Back day dedicated to safety. Superintendent Brower, who is starting his first year with Eatonville School District, said that they cannot educate students without first creating a safe and secure environment and that “Safety and security is the #1 purpose before education can take place.”

LaLiberte, serving his fifth year as Police Chief, agreed with Brower on the need for the Police Department to get involved to help save lives and keep kids safe. He said, “It takes a partnership” and that the schools and police department have an “outstanding relationship.”

Allison Burslem is a school principal and the district’s communications director. She highlighted the ongoing monthly safety drills that happen in each school but noted this year’s welcome training was the first time they had all of the staff together in a training — 262 employees came together with trainers from the police department and Pierce County Department of Emergency Management Services. They offered training and resources and the opportunity to work in small groups for active shooter instructions and drills. 

Burslem said the officers made them all feel very safe and even offered to visit each school to answer any specific questions.

In addition to individual site visits, they will be partnering on future trainings with substitutes, volunteers, and other stakeholders. LaLiberte is proud of the positive relationship with the school district and committed to fostering the same positive relationship with teachers and individual students. 

“This year, we will be reinstating the Core Value Awards,” LaLiberte said. These awards are offered quarterly and celebrate one student in each grade that exemplifies one or more of the department’s core values: Accountability, Compassion, Excellence, Professionalism, and Ethics. 

LaLiberte said it provides a nice example to come into the schools and build those personal relationships.

Brower said how much he appreciates the support from the community. He looks forward to maintaining a strong relationship with the police department while he continues to reach out into the community to build further relationships. 

In addition to the officers that provided a reassuring presence at the crosswalks on the first day of school, other companies have also been generous. Key Bank brought ice cream treats to take care of the staff for the professional development session. TwinStar Credit Union provided breakfast and brought along a cash machine for the first-year teachers. And taking their generosity one giant step further, they outfitted the entire staff in the Eatonville Strong t-shirts seen in the all-staff photo.

“We are really proud of our partnerships,” Brower said. “United we serve. And the best is yet to come!”


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