One month after the school shooting in Connecticut, the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board discussed what safety procedures are in place in its district.
“Since the last time we’ve met as a board, we’re all knowledgeable about what happened in Newtown, Conn.,” District Administrator Scott Bleck said, referring to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 first graders and six staff were killed.
School safety was a discussion topic during the W-F Committee of the Whole meeting, held Monday, Jan. 14, in the middle school library.
Bleck outlined the steps immediately taken in the W-F School District on the day of the shooting in Connecticut.
On that day, he immediately met with Weyauwega police and talked to Fremont police about the potential for any fallback locally.
“We had a police presence in both buildings that day,” Bleck said.
The district also sent out a written communication to parents about what it does to ensure a safe school environment.
When staff and students returned to school the following Monday – Dec. 17 – Bleck told the staff some students might have questions and concerns about what happened on the East Coast.
He told staff members to not avoid those questions and to ensure the students they are in a safe environment.
“Over Christmas break, the Weyauwega Police Department executed a walk-through assessment of the building,” Bleck told the board. “It is not appropriate to share the chief’s recommendations in public.”
The district has a locked door system.
That system, which includes cameras and buzzers, was implemented about seven years ago.
One change, since the shooting in Connecticut, is that at the middle and high schools, the doors are now locked throughout the academic day.
In the past, the doors were unlocked about 15 minutes before the end of the school day. Now, they remain locked until the school day ends.
While the district does not have a police liaison officer, it works closely with the two area police departments.
Officers are increasing their visibility at the schools, Bleck said.
The district administrator also told the board the district’s insurance company will be conducting a liability walk through, with the direct focus of it being about safety.
Bleck said community feedback is important, and one community member – John Young – attended Monday’s meeting to express his concerns about the district’s safety procedures.
Young, who has 10 grandchildren in the school district, said during that December, he visited the schools a number of times.
“I’m not a regular visitor. Never once was I objected to or cautioned,” he said in reference to the district’s buzzer system.
The fact that he was allowed into the schools without question, after pressing a buzzer, resulted in him feeling anxious.
Much of the discussion in schools throughout the country is how to make schools safer, but Young cautioned the board to not just think about how to strengthen the safety side.
He said the district must also have compassion as it approaches the issue and talk about how those with mental illness may be helped.
“I challenge you to appoint a task force for both the strength side and the compassion side,” Young said. “I would love to be part of it.
The district does have a Safety Committee, chaired by Matt Wilbert, principal of both the middle school and high school.
The committee has met on a monthly basis for about two years.
Increasing security options in the school offices is among the topics up for discussion, and Young was invited to the committee’s next meeting.
The district also participated in a mock crisis drill last August, and staff members wear identification badges.
Board member Tony Beyer said they can make schools like Fort Knox, but asked if there are organizations or ways to reach out to those who have a mental illness and are not taking their medications.
“I think there are resources out there,” Young said. “Someone needs to focus on the core issues and then identify the core way to deal with it.”
Both Weyauwega Police Chief Jerry Poltrock and Fremont Police Chief Gene Goode attended Monday’s meeting.
Poltrock said every school district in the county is talking about the issue.
After what happened in Connecticut, there is talk about assigning law officers to schools, Goode said.
“I think it’s healthy that we have this