The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board met on Wednesday for the first time since the school year began — voting on and discussing topics ranging from Valencia High School’s turf replacement delay to renewing a contract for explosives and firearm-sniffing K-9 units.
Hart district renews contract for K-9 units
The board unanimously approved the renewal of a contract awarded to Global K9 Protection Group to have explosive-sniffing dogs randomly sweep the campuses of each school within the district.
While the dogs are technically “explosive detection” canines, their specific purpose, as far as the Hart district is concerned, is to sniff out firearms and ammunition on school grounds, according to Debbie Dunn, communications coordinator for the Hart district.
“They just randomly visit a school and the dog just walks around the school site. If you think of the dogs at the airport … it’s the same kind of dog training,” said Dunn.
The canine teams have 10 randomly assigned visits this year. The practice began last school year as part of an effort to “help deter individuals from bringing firearms onto campus while also helping our students and staff feel more secure.”
Dunn said having canines do these sweeps is part of the Hart district’s best practice recommendation from the school safety portion of its strategic plan. The recommendation was given by PrinceKallin Consulting — a security consulting firm contracted by the district to evaluate security after the November 2019 shooting at Saugus High School.
Global K9 Protection was awarded the renewal after it took over the contract from 3DK9 Detection Services — who was bought by Global K9 in the middle of the 2022-23 school year.
The contract lasts until the end of this school year and will charge the Hart district $82.50 per hour with a four-hour minimum per assignment.
The action item was approved as part of the meeting’s consent calendar with no discussion and no comment regarding it from the public.
Electric buses coming to Hart District
Students of the Hart district may soon be riding electric buses, but not before the infrastructure to support them is put in place first.
Brytemove Energy, an Irvine-based company, was awarded a contract for the installation of 17 charging stations for the soon-to-be fleet. The Hart district has been working with Southern California Edison on the project and will use funds from a grant provided by SCE to cover the “vast majority” of costs.
The Hart district already has electric buses and the chargers needed to charge them. However those buses are not currently in use. The Newhall School District and the Sulphur Springs Union School District do have buses that are currently being used.
The project’s entirety was approved in April 2022, and Wednesday’s addition to the proposal will add a “supercharger” to use in emergency situations.
Once the fulfillment of the rest of the Hart district’s fleet arrives and the charging stations are installed, full service of it will commence. The charging stations’ location will be at 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway and will be used by the Hart district, Newhall district and Sulphur Springs district.
Charging of the buses is planned to take place in non-peak hours to save on energy costs. Board members inquired for more details on future maintenance costs, but passed the item regardless.
The lump sum contract price awarded to Brytemove is $37,525. The action item was passed unanimously by the board.
Hart board hears complaints about reported ‘card’ given to students
Several parents of Hart district students spoke up during the public comments period during Thursday’s meeting about an alleged “card” that was given to students asking them what their preferred pronouns are and an option to “meet with the teacher privately” to discuss the matter further.
First-day-of-school cards or questionnaires are commonly handed out to students to fill out for teachers to better get to know and understand their students. However, several parents believe this one set an uncomfortable precedent.
One parent who identified herself as Karen Frost — The Signal cannot confirm the spelling of her name — said she saw the card circulated on social media and had concerns regarding it. Frost said a teacher asking students what their preferred pronouns were was not a concern to her, but that teachers inviting a student to discuss it in private did.
“I have some concerns and I just want the board to be aware of this — that maybe there needs to be some guardrails that need to be put into place on this. If a student wants to come to a teacher and wants to discuss something of this nature, there needs to be a process.”
Frost suggested having two teachers and two students present or another process to “protect the integrity of the faculty and the safety of the students.”
Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the Hart district, said questionnaires had never been a point of contention until the question of pronouns surfaced. He added there was no district policy that supports or prevents a teacher asking students about preferred pronouns. If they do so, it’s neither according to or against policy. However, he did note concern regarding the “checkbox” to talk privately.
“I do have concerns about anything that proactively talks about a private conversation and that’s something that we’re going to look into,” said Kuhlman. “I believe that really the answer here is the need to work with the board to provide updated board policy and guidance on what’s appropriate in these areas.”
As to which specific school or teacher this alleged incident took place, Kuhlman has heard rumors in regards to these details. However, none of them have been confirmed. The Signal has also not been able to independently verify the validity of the claims or their origins.
The Hart district’s next meeting will be a board study session on school culture and climate on Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.