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Greenfield's Reaction: Are Our School's Safe?

Whitnall Superintendent Lowell Holtz said his schools are as safe as they can be.

Updated 9:30 a.m. Dec. 15

As the tragic events in Newtown, Ct., unfold Friday, local school officials are trying to make sense of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Anybody’s that’s been a parent, been a teacher, been associated with schools, you can’t imagine how the families feel in Connecticut,” Whitnall Superintendent Dr. Lowell Holtz said. “Our heart and our prayers go out to them.

“No one can believe that someone would have this unimaginable evil inside of them to do this. It’s hard to fathom for anybody.”

Holtz said that every since the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, and even before, school districts across the country have become more and more judicious when it comes to who they let inside their schools.

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He said all Whitnall schools are secured in a similar fashion. Once all students are in the school, there is only one way into the district’s high school, middle school and two elementary schools, Holtz said.

He said visitors have to ring a buzzer at the front door and are then viewed on video cameras before let into the building. They are then directed to the school secretary’s office, where they must sign in.

“You do prevention to try to create obstacles to discourage people from selecting a school,” Holtz said. “Is it the greatest thing in the world? No. There’s no metal detector, and even if there was, if that’s the kind of person coming in the door, I don’t want to depress people, but what is the secretary or a metal detector going to do?”

So, do schools need an armed guard at the front door?

“We do everything that we can do,” Holtz said. “Everybody is aware of the procedures were supposed to follow. Even if we had an armed police officer, that might not prevent it. They said the guy came in with a bullet-proof vest and assault rifles; it would be hard to stop."

Holtz said all of the students in the district participate in school lockdown drills, similar to fire drills, throughout the course of the year. And should a tragic event like the one that happened in Connecticut on Friday happen at a Whitnall school, Holtz said the district is capable of sending out mass messages through emails and phone calls.

“Every phone number we have on file can get the message,” Holtz said. “In an emergency like this, we’d tell them what’s going on, when we’ll update the information and give them directions on where to go.

“Every parent is going to be scared and nervous after something like this, just like I was when my kid went to a midnight showing of The Hobbit last night. But you have to be proactive, and the schools are as safe as they can be.”

Greenfield: safety of students top concern

Greenfield Superintendent Conrad Farner said the district is diligent in creating safe, secure environments and monitoring those environments every day.

"While the tragedy in Connecticut impacts us all at various emotional, spiritual and intellectual levels, it has little impact on the district's practices," Farner said. "We are as prepared as we can be every day.

"We have safety/crisis plans in place, we do regular drills, we have staff trained in safety/security/crisis measures. We monitor visitors to our schools. We have participated in a number of state and local safety/crisis initiatives. We continually look at our practices, procedures and facilities and consider ideas and options to stay as safe and secure as we can be."

Farner said the safety of students is the district's top priority, and that the district constantly deals "with the struggle of having schools that are safe and secure, but at the same time we want to be warm, inviting, welcoming places for students, staff, parents and community/citizen partners."

President Barack Obama said Friday afternoon that he had spoken to Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and said the federal government would "offer every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families."

In his remarks, Obama also referenced the August mass shooting at an temple in Oak Creek when he said:

"As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Friday afternoon State Superintendent Tony Evers said his heart and prayers go out to the victims of the tragic shooting and their families.

"Also in my heart and prayers are all the students, parents, and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut," Evers said in a statement. "For them and for the whole community of Newtown, I offer our support as they cope with the aftermath of this senseless act of violence. Their lives and their community have been changed forever.

“These will be difficult times for parents and school children everywhere, including in Wisconsin. We must support and care for our children as they hear about this tragedy and try to understand that which is incomprehensible and senseless.”

Tess December 15, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Two of my kids went to the middle school, although annoying every time I had to run in there was a office staff right there near the entrance flagging me down to sign in. I look back now and I'm thank full. The Shkoukani family
Joseph December 15, 2012 at 02:57 PM
So what I'm gathering from the article is, if the murderer gets in, you don't have a plan to stop him? What do massacres not happen in guns stores or ranges? Is it because other people are well armed and can defend themselves or is it something else? You don't let a murderer roam free. You engage him and shoot him.
Jake December 16, 2012 at 03:44 AM
I have issues about the way you stated your opinion, I have to sadly admit, You're Right
Joseph December 16, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I don't mince words when it comes to people's safety. All the self defense courses I've taken (including my workplace), we've been told to engage the attacker. My work says at a last resort, but I disagree. I don't want that murderer to continue murdering people. I want to preserve innocent life.
HairMetalFan December 16, 2012 at 11:07 PM
My daughter when to Maple Grove awhile ago. There was a door always open and anybody could walk into the school. I hope it's changed since then. Before we moved to Greenfield, she went to a MPS school. There you had to buzz in and tell them why you were there and then they would open the door for you
Concerned December 16, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Many of the GF Elementary Schools have been unlocked all day long. Any person can walk right inside and usually walk right past the office without even speaking to a person. Many people have spoken about this along with other safety issues, but just like many other issues in GF, nothing changes.
John Seymour December 17, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Here is the very sad truth. Short of having armed guards at every school there is not much that can be done to stop mentally ill people from committing these horrible acts. This guy broke through glass to get in around the buzzer system. Until the 4-5 kids in a school of 500 who are mentally disturbed have access to proper treatment (outside of school) nothing will make a difference. All of the people who have committed these crimes have the same background. Nobody wants to address it...maybe something will get done now. There is not much help for parents of these kids. They either can't get it, or don't know enough to do something about it.
Cassie Burckhardt December 17, 2012 at 05:37 PM
If Whitnall is safe, why do people still get bullied to the point where they hate themselves?
Chris Kelnhofer December 17, 2012 at 06:06 PM
People need to start thinking about the families and not how it could have been avoided.
Joseph December 17, 2012 at 06:19 PM
This is probably going to sound callus, but the way to stop tragedies like this is to protect our children by arming the adults. When was the last time you heard of a school in Israel having tragedy like this?
KHD December 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Chris, why shouldnt we think about how it could have been avoided?? You dont care if it happens again?? Get A brain man.

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