West Side News

South-Western City Schools

Wise: Student safety 'always in our thoughts'

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Aside from some additional officers patrolling near school buildings, the South-Western City School District took no special measures as students returned to class Monday following the Dec. 14 incident at a Connecticut elementary school where an assailant shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults.

Superintendent Bill Wise said he sent a letter to parents assuring them the district has reviewed and revised where necessary the district-wide emergency response plan.

Student safety "is something that is always in our thoughts," and the district has implemented a variety of safety features and procedures, Wise said.

The district's emergency response plan is regularly reviewed with staff members and revised as necessary, he said.

A number of safety components were included in the design for the four intermediate schools, Jackson Middle School and Central Crossing High School that were constructed following the passage of a bond issue in 1998, Wise said.

Those elements and more will be included in the new buildings that will be built beginning next year as part of the district's Ohio School Facilities Commission plan, he said.

The district received back-to-back Readiness and Emergency Managements in Schools (REMS) grants a few years ago and used those funds for the refining and implementing of its safety protocols and training staff and students, Wise said.

Students have participated in lockdown drills, much as they would tornado or fire drills, he said.

Procedures are in place for visitors at each South-Western school, Wise said.

Grove City Police Chief Steve Robinette said the department is "keeping an ear out" for any concerns and working with the schools to ensure good security measures are in place.

"We're not doing anything exceptional," Robinette said. "We're maintaining the presence we've had."

That presence includes officers permanently assigned to the high schools and regular patrols of the school zones as well as DARE officers in the buildings.

Robinette said there is a "fine line" between responding to fears in the community and creating additional anxiety, but he would advise the public to be vigilant and to relay any concerns to local law enforcement.

The school district considers the community "as an active partner in securing our students' safety," Wise said. "They can be our eyes and ears in the community. If they see anything that doesn't sit right with them, we encourage them to contact the building principal.

"The safety of our students is not a school issue, it's a community issue," he said.

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