NICKERSON — Nickerson High School has new students on campus this week. Many of them wear law enforcement badges and three of them fill management jobs in the school district.
They are looking for the security strengths at the school and the campus’ “opportunities” for improvement.
The National Rifle Association’s School Shield program “Security Assessor Training” steers away from words like weaknesses and vulnerabilities. At the end of the week, the 19 participants will have seen them, though, and an overall report will be presented to the Nickerson-South Hutchinson USD 309 school board.
Also at the conclusion, the participants — including USD 309 Superintendent Dawn Johnson, Nickerson High School Principal Rick Blosser, and USD 309 Maintenance Director Danno Ochs — will be certified to provide security assessments at schools.
Law enforcement agencies from around the state sent employees to the training. Jackson County Sheriff Department’s Joe Romans is going to be a school resource deputy for Jackson County, where there are three high schools. One lesson that impressed Romans was the directive to go to the stakeholders — teachers, staff, students — to discover answers to security needs.
“It kind of cuts to the chase,” Romans said.
During the lunch period Wednesday, Romans took a chair at tables with students and asked the students if they were king or queen for the day and had unlimited money, what would they do to change security.
“Bodyguards everywhere,” was the first response at a table of boys.
Next week, USD 309 is expected to interview applicants for the new job of school resource officer. The officer will be armed and will cover all USD 309 schools.
Should the school have an armed officer?
“We should,” said junior Koltin Gomez.
It will “make the school safer,” said sophomore Darrian Holland. If an active shooter is in the building, the officer “could take him down, I guess,” Holland said.
Franklin County Sheriff Department’s Sgt. Jason Bryan said every school has fire protection practices that are well defined. “We’re not to that point,” he said, with security measures.
“Times have changed. Our society has changed. I don’t think we’ve kept up,” Bryan said. “Every community, every school is slightly different, in some cases vastly different,” he said.
USD 309 worked with the South Hutchinson Police Department to get a grant for the Security Assessor Training class, with the school district offering to host the class at Nickerson High School. Attendance was free for all participants. Darrel Schenck and Larry Alexander are the NRA program’s instructors.
More school administrators are taking the training, Schenck said, and that helps build a better bond between law enforcement and schools.
Architects generally are implementing more security in their design of new schools, Alexander said. They install secured doors and cameras and create visually open spaces.
Nickerson High School opened in the mid-1950s. “For an old building, they are doing plenty of good stuff,” Schenck said.
Visitors arriving at the entrance to Nickerson High have to announce themselves through an intercom before a staffer — who can see the visitors, too — releases the locked door. In the office, visitors sign in, list the time of arrival, their names, phone numbers, and reason for the visit. Visitors wear lanyards holding a “Visitor Pass”
As he travels around presenting training, Schenck said, some problems he sees at schools are “more of a policy procedure complacency.”
Law enforcement members from Reno County taking the training are Hutchinson Police Department’s Sgt. David Radke and Officers Josh Long and Tim Williams; Haven Police Department’s Officer Matt Hayden; and a Reno County Sheriff Department member working undercover.
Nickerson-South Hutchinson USD 309’s school board is developing a bond issue proposal and security and safety measures will be included in the package.