Sad about Connecticut shooting, glad about local safety measures

The school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the second deadliest shooting at a school and the most ever at an elementary school, prompted areas school officials and students to reflect on safety here.

Area school officials and students were unanimous in their sadness over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but they remarked they believe things are safe at their respective schools.

“I just can’t imagine someone doing that,” Wapakoneta High School junior Logan Martin said. “It is hard to imagine.”

However, Martin said he believes as much as possible is done to keep students safe at his school.

“I don’t feel like there is any danger here,” Martin said. “I feel safe here.”

Junior Wyatt Harrison echoed that response, which seemed to be the consensus.

“We had an incident here my freshman year, when someone had a weapon,” Harrison said. “We were immediately on lockdown and the problem was handled. I trust the teachers here and I trust the school system. I am confident that we are safe here.”

Harrison, who returned from a field trip midday through school, said that was when he first learned of the shooting.

“It makes you feel so helpless,” Harrison said. “You want to help and it is so far away. The fact that it was a elementary school just breaks my heart.”

Wapakoneta Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said seeing the event that unfolded Friday is a school administrator’s worst nightmare.

“It’s very horrible,” Horner said. “My heart goes out to those folks.”

Most school buildings constructed more recently have stricter safety guidelines and it is harder to get in the school. Visitors typically have to pass through a locked entry to be buzzed in to the office.

Visitors must then be identified to get a pass into the rest of the school. Both Wapakoneta and Waynesfield-Goshen have that practice for entries into their schools.

“We do our best to try and monitor everyone that comes in the building,” Horner said. “We try to be alert all of the time.”

Even with the school locked down, there are brief periods when security can be at a weaker point, mainly during the morning when kids are coming to school or in the afternoon when they are leaving. Horner said school employees are placed at strategic points during these times to monitor the situation.

“Teachers are assigned to various locations,” Horner said. “It isn’t 100 percent foolproof. You have to get 2,000 kids in and out of the school, but we take safety very seriously.”

Horner said safety meetings are held routinely every other week to discuss all safety concerns, from salting sidewalks to finding areas where it is possible to come in unmonitored.

“Its always on our mind,” Horner said.

Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools Superintendent Chris Pfister said modern design goes a long way in helping kids remain safe.

“The design of newer buildings is very helpful,” Pfister said. “Students can only go in one door and out one door.”

The doors open at the school promptly at 7:50 a.m. During release, faculty and other employees are in the hall monitoring students as they leave the school.

Pfister said employees also have a sole entry in the back of the school, and must have a pass key to get in.

Both schools also have crisis management plans that are put in place immediately shall an incident take place.

“You have to wonder what is wrong with some people,” Pfister said. “It is unfortunate, very sad.”

Botkins Local Schools currently is housed in an older building, but designs for the new school set for groundbreaking in April of next year has more stringent safety precautions designed into the building. Visitors at that school will also have to get clearance through the office before gaining access to the building. In the meantime, the school showed the ability to react fast as the school was locked down earlier this year and all students were contained quickly to their rooms. The village police chief was quickly able to resolve the matter.

Acting Ohio Board of Education Superintendent Michael Sawyers released a statement offering sympathy and prayers to Sandy Hook.

“Our hearts ache for you,” Sawyers said in the release. “Ohio, too, has known the horror of a recent school shooting and the senseless tragedy reminds us that we must all work together as a nation to make schools the safe places they should be.”

In light of the incident, Sawyers reminded local boards of education that a school safety plan must be adopted for each building in the school district as mandated by Ohio law. Copies of the plans must be filed with local law enforcement, the fire department, and the Attorney General’s office.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered the following words in regards of the incident.

“First and foremost, Fran and I are praying for the families affected by the horrible and unspeakable tragedy which occurred today in Connecticut,” DeWine said. “After the shooting that occurred earlier this year in Chardon, and several times since, I urged schools around Ohio who had not yet filed school safety plans to do so.

“These plans are critical for first responders to respond to incidents at school facilities,” he said. “I am pleased to report that in response to our most recent call for updated plans, over 1,000 Ohio schools filed plans with our office. However, there are still 145 schools that have never filed plans with our office. Our Crime Victim Services section has contacted the Connecticut Crime Victims Compensation program to provide any assistance they need at this time.”