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Willard looks at safety plan in wake of school shootings

By MAISEE FRIED • Mar 12, 2018 at 4:00 AM

In light of recent shootings at American high schools, Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz said the safety plan for the district is up for renewal this year.

Ritz said every three years Homeland Security provides the basis for a security plan that the district then personalizes for their specific needs.

“You then present that to local and regional officials for approval and make adjustments with the law officials from the area,” he said.

Ritz said he cannot say enough good things about the city because of the the safety and security of the building that it provides.

Along with a police officer that is in the building during operating hours, there are approximately 210 cameras throughout the district, both inside and outside of the school, the gymnasium, the bus garage and the board of education’s office.

Doors are programmed to be open before and after school when students are entering and exiting the building, Willard City Schools director of technology Mark White said.

To access the building outside of those times, a visitor must press a button that notifies the secretaries in the main office, White said.. The secretaries are able talk to the visitor over a speaker and they will be buzzed into the main office of the building.

After entering the school office, a secretary will scan a state-issued I.D. through a security check that is finished within seconds.

“If there is something that comes up that is suspect, it automatically notifies the proper authorities at that time,” Ritz said.

If the visitor passes the background check, they are given an identification badge and can access the rest of the building, White said.

Students are allowed to enter into other doors, but they still must speak with a secretary before being buzzed into the building, Ritz said.

“Every three years every school has to have a plan in place that is approved by (the) local police force, fire, sheriff and other protective agencies,” the superintendent added. “This is done through the Homeland Security, they help us with our plan. Willard’s plan just so happens to be up for renewal this year. We are revising our plan just because our three-year plan is up.

Ritz said the parents, the students, and the staff must work together as a team.

“Whether it’s bullying, whether it’s an intruder — (if you) see something, say something. We have to communicate with each other,” he said.

Ritz said he tries to put a caring adult in the path of every child, acting as a good role model for them. He said the school has also tried to have lessons on different topics dealing with the issue, such as the school shooting in Florida.

“You’ve got to use things as a learning experience, a teachable moment,” he said.

It appears to be working and the superintendent said even seemingly small projects are contributing a better, safer, more friendly environment. 

Middle school students have even put videos on YouTube about bullying, and students throughout the district are being surveyed during study hall times about the environment of the school.

“It’s all on creating a nice, safe culture for our students and that’s something we are really working hard on. We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way,”

The need for being safety-conscious though extends beyond the school walls. Ritz said parents need to have a conversation with their children about what to do in case there is a tragedy in the home.

“’If something happens and we’re separated, the house burnt down, where are we going to meet? What are we going to do?’” he said.

In this day and age, he encouraged parents to consider emergency plans even for when they’re out and about, such as if something happens while they’re at the mall or a movie theater.

Ritz is advising his students always to “think things through.”

“See something, say something,” he emphasized.

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