School reviews year of added security

WTAJ Special Reports

BROOKVILLE, JEFFERSON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Brookville Junior/Senior High School added new security measures at the beginning of the school year.

Now that it’s almost over, things are running smoothly, but there are still a few concerns.

Every morning students take off their bags, have them searched, then walk through a metal detector.

They’ve had an entire school year to get the process down to a tight routine.

“It’s been awesome to see a whole team effort from all our students to our teachers to our administration to the faculty to the community,” assistant principal of student services John Lesjack said. “Everyone’s really come together to make this process work from the very beginning of the school day to the end.”

The district purchased five metal detectors and multiple security wands after community discussions last school year.

Most were in favor of the added security because of threats made against the school.

A $20,000 community donation and $25,000 safe school grant made it all possible.

Superintendent Dr. Robin Fillman said it’s just one way to help students– and parents– feel safe.

“Parents are concerned about sending their kids to school these days and having those things in place we feel we can focus on the education and the curriculum while safety is being secured,” Fillman said.

Many students and faculty believe it was the right call, and now feel safer.

“I feel like having metal detectors in the school makes us feel more safe, in a way, because they’re going through our bags and we have to walk through something that pretty much makes sure we don’t have anything on us,” student Nevada Hetrick said.

“It gives me a better peace of mind, you know, knowing that the school’s safer for the kids and the staff,” director of buildings and grounds Bob Fiscus said.

Part of the discussions also included a partnership with the Brookville Police Department.

Officers spent the entire year patrolling the schools– and building relationships with the students.

“It’s also nice to have a police officer around us at all times during the day,” student Sierra Hoffman said. “They switch people so you get to know them better each and every day.”

Even with security measures in place, two students were arrested in March. Police say they were planning a school shooting to take place April 1.

Chief Vince Markle said his department takes each threat seriously, credible or not.

“As far as statistics go, you never really know what you stopped,” Markle said. “Over the last two years, did we stop something like that from happening in our community, we don’t know. The one thing we do know is that it didn’t happen.”

Parents of students said they’re glad there’s added security, but the threat was still a concern.

“As with any parent or grandparent, you are always concerned about the well-being of our students that are here and I just hope that they continue to keep on top of all the things,” grandparent Richard Youngdahl said.

Some think there’s more the district can do.

“I think there’s always room for improvement,” grandparent Cathy Caylor said. “I listened to a government official talk and he was very well educated and he suggested people inside the building make frequent walks throughout the building just looking for things.”

Fillman said the school’s safety plan is always changing.

“Safety to the Brookville School District is paramount,” Fillman said. “We spend hours and hours every month really making sure that our campuses are safe and putting all the precautions in place that we possibly can.”

So that the new normal is not just metal detectors, it’s a safe and secure school.

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