BILLINGS - Billings School District 2 is taking measures to try and improve security inside the city's schools.
With school threats on the rise recently, the district has hired its first-ever safety coordinator and only the second one in the entire state.
Superintendent Greg Upham said the Helena school district has a similar position.
Jeremy House will lead the way and work with nine school resource officers in Billings.
House just started this week and already he's going around to some of the schools.
The idea is to make things more secure and give teachers, parents and students more confidence in that security.
House, the district's new emergency management coordinator and public safety director, met with Sandstone Elementary School principal Travis Lassle and teachers.
"The point of contact for the media or from whomever has a question about safety, they don't go trying to figure out who it is, they just come straight to me," House said.
House is a former Billings police assistant chief and retired last spring after 30 years with the department.
His new job used to be additional duties for the Director of Athletics and Activities.
"The amount of trainings that we do now and all of the issues attached to security and cameras and everything that we do now required a full-time position," said Upham. "And we're very fortunate enough to have Mr. House with us."
"The school district is a city within its own," House said. "Close to 3,000 full-time and part-time employees. Over 16,000 students. Right there is bigger than most towns in the state of Montana that have full-time police departments."
House will be overseeing the safety and protection of students, faculty, workers and visitors at 33 schools, warehouses, and other buildings.
He'll also look at violence along with natural and man-made hazards, will coordinate with school resource officers, and will update cameras and other technology.
"Make sure everybody's trained to least be able to protect themselves and the students," he said.
According to the Billings police 2021 Annual Report, school resource officers wrote up 633 cases, which is actually down because of COVID.
Those investigations led to more than 400 arrests.
Last year, School District 2 dealt with several safety concerns, including several threats written on bathroom stalls that resulted in arrests.
"We've seen an escalation of emotion," Upham said. "An escalation of anger. We witnessed the school shooting in Uvalde. All of those together, we just said hey, we need to increase our capacity and do a better job for our community for our staff, for our students, everybody.