District examines school grounds security

COLUMBIANA – The city school district and police department are working together to make sure students and teachers are safe on the school grounds each day, Superintendent Don Mook said Tuesday.

Mook said school administration met with students and board of education members Kelly Witmer and Mark Hutson last week to go over the district’s safety procedures and how they can be improved.

Like many in the county-and across the nation-the district took a closer look at its current safety procedure to see what could, or should, be done differently following the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Connecticut.

“When Sandy Hook happened we were still bouncing off of what happened in Chardon, reviewing our safety procedures, our lockdown procedures. I still think we are doing the right thing, it’s how we are doing them and what we need to modify,” he said.

The Chardon High School shooting happened on Feb. 27, 2012 in Geauga County Ohio.

Mook said the district has already implemented lockdown training and the Columbiana Police Department has provided officers on premises during the school week.

Having a police department nearby puts the district at an advantage compared to other schools, he added.

“Our response time in this district is three to five minutes,” he said. “Many of the districts in the county rely on the sheriff’s department and they have a lot more square mileage they cover, so our response time is significantly less.”

He went on to say the board will need to consider the various options available, including some that have so far been controversial, like arming school staff.

“Some schools are taking a look at anything from mace, to stun guns to hand guns in (their) district, and that’s with staff,” he said.

He said that staff should be trained as a first response team regardless of whether they have weapons, because they are the first ones to recognize when something is wrong.

“From a board standpoint we certainly need to consider the things that we need to move toward to ensure the safety of the district,” he said.

Detective Wade Boley taught an active shooter training course at the high school in January that trained teachers and other school staff across the county how to respond if someone enters a building with the intention of causing harm.

Mook said the event co-sponsored by the First Christian Church on Cherry Street was “very informative.”

“The help we are getting from the Columbiana Police Department has been tremendous,” he said.

Another option is bringing on school resource officers, a matter that has generated negative and positive feedback from district parents, he said.

He noted that most schools in Mahoning County and some in Trumbull County have resource officers while “very little” are present in Columbiana County.

“With potential funding available to us that’s one of the things to consider,” he said, referring to President Barack Obama’s recent school safety efforts.

Improving the district’s safety will be an on-going process as the state and federal government introduce new safety procedures for schools, he said.