More than just school shootings
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WALLENPAUPACK - On Monday night, March 12, Assistant Superintendent Keith Gunuskey gave an update to the Wallenpaupack School Board about safety and security at the district.

WALLENPAUPACK - On Monday night, March 12, Assistant Superintendent Keith Gunuskey gave an update to the Wallenpaupack School Board about safety and security at the district.
He noted that a thorough review of the safety plan at WAHS followed the shootings at the primary school in Newton, CT, in 2012. This resulted in a decision by the school board to invest in a new Student Resource Officer (SRO) program. The armed school police, while raising the sense of security, interact with the student body with various programs and as part of curriculum.
Although the current update follows the school shootings in Parkland, FL on Feb. 21, Gunuskey added that the district no longer waits for another tragedy before reviewing or modifying their plan.
Since the mass shootings at the Columbine high school in Colorado in 1999, there have been 199 reported incidents at U.S. schools, involving guns. These include 148 deaths and 264 injuries in schools, grades K-12, and 121 deaths and 141 injuries at universities and colleges.
There have been six incidents since Parkland, he said.
The Parkland shootings, Gunuskey stated, provided a fresh reminder that their “national treasure walks into their school every day” - their students.
Safety and security go beyond violent incidents. They also include how to prepare for and respond to accidents, a sudden death of a classmate or teacher, fires and chemical spills and natural disasters.
Much more common that large scale incidents that disrupt the educational day are so-called “everyday” events. Among these are domestic violence, a suicidal student and substance abuse.
WAHS has responded with school safety plans, crisis response teams, trains, drills, facility upgrades and collaboration with local agencies.
An “All-Hazards School Safety Planning Toolkit” was developed in a joint effort with Pike and Wayne County EMA and is updated annually and after every event. Emergency education and shelter arrangements are in place between Wallenpaupack, Western Wayne and Wayne Highlands school districts.
Various multi-agency drills have been held, including those involving a train vs. a school bus, water supply and a bleacher collapse.
Wallenpaupack Area School District has a district-wide safety team that meets monthly and tours the buildings, assessing potential safety concerns for staff and students. Nurses meetings are held each month.
A contract is in place with Friendship House which provides a counselor, part-time, at the schools to offer  easy access to mental health services. They also have contracts with Victims intervention Program and Wayne County Drug & Alcohol.
Relationships between students and their parents, and with the schools, is the focus of the Strengthening Families Program, with meets for evening after-school sessions at the Middle School (seven families are currently taking the program, involving 17 students).
In addition to monthly fire drills, periodic, school-wide “Code Green” and “Code Red” alerts are reviewed and practiced. Code Green involves an incident where classes can still be held; Code Red is of a more serious nature, which disrupts scheduled education. Staff and students are included.
Code Red was practiced every two years and is now down every year; it had been in the spring but they expect to change that to the fall, so the staff can be ready for the new school year.
Active shooter drills are conducted with staff only, with training provided by SROs and PA State Police. Each school building has a Crisis Response Team in place.
Administrators carry two-way radios with secure channels.
Gunuskey said that it is impossible to make school 100% secure, and there are always ways they can improve on the plan.
John Iona, who was in the audience, commented that the SRO program was an excellent addition and lauded SRO director, John Clader for how he interacts with students. He said Clader is “casual with his authority” while commanding respect.
Iona asked if the school had the policy of “run, hide and fight” in the event of a shooter in a school. Gunuskey said that each situation will be different. Superintendent Michael Silsby said that staff is trained in different scenarios.
Gunuskey said it used to be the philosophy of “everyone stays put” during an incident. “Now, it’s not a one size fits all. It’s going to have to be at the discretion of the incident that is happening,” he said. Teachers are guided to make the best decision possible.
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Assistant Superintendent Keith Gunuskey gave an update to the Wallenpaupack School Board about safety and security at the district on March 12.- News Eagle video by Peter Becker