Officials: Area schools safe places for students

Lunn: NRA idea for armed guards expensive; district seeks safety alternatives 

After remaining silent on the Sandy Hook shooting for a week, National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre on Dec. 21 called for a ‘good guy with a gun’ in every school in the country.

“We did hear the NRA press conference on Dec. 21 and we feel the same now as we did that afternoon,” said Saint Croix Preparatory Academy executive director Jon Gutierrez, in an email. “We’ll continue to work with local law enforcement to review, evaluate and modify, as needed, our school security measures. We’ll take our direction from local authorities that are familiar with our building, our community and our needs.”

Independent School District 834 Superintendent Corey Lunn agreed with Gutierrez and adds that it’s easy for someone to jump to one end of the spectrum, like putting security officers in every building.

“But this costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and when you’re struggling to hire and pay the teachers you need for the schools, it’s another thing that takes money away from the classroom,” Lunn said.

Overall Lunn said his goal is to provide students with a safe place to learn and thrive.

“As superintendent, part of my job is to create a balanced and safe culture around our places of teaching and learning,” he said. “We have to think of the atmosphere we provide our kids and I don’t think that having a lot of armed individuals in a school will make them feel safe.”

An avenue Lunn said the district is currently pursuing looks at the structural layout of the district’s buildings to figure out ways to deter someone who might want to cause harm.

“A lot of new schools have several lockdown locations. Our facilities committee is looking at each building and we’ll look at each school and ask experts how to make the school less accessible to people,” he said. “When I say less accessible I mean creating a place where you have to come through an area where you’re actually noticed and can be put in lockdown if necessary, and figure out a possible deterrence for someone who intends to do harm.”

Lunn hopes to produce a report on ideas the district could possibly do to help with the above and present it to the school board. He added that he hopes the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy brings more awareness about mental illness in our country.

“It’s a silent epidemic in the country. A lot of people are embarrassed about it and don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “In most of these situations there are many warning signs about mental health issues. We need to provide them services. In many of these situations families have gone to seek help and have been turned away in the past.”

Overall, Lunn said schools still are one of the safest places for children and added that it’s important to be proactive and find ways to prevent situations like the Sandy Hook shooting in the future.