By Kathryn Rice

The West Nodaway R-I Board of Education held an open forum, July 21, to hear from school district residents on the issue of the school appointing school protection officers (SPO).

The board allowed patrons to sign up to speak for three minutes each, one time. Nine people signed up. Most questions were not answered as this was a listening event. The agenda and the state statute allowing and describing the position of school protection officer were available for attendees.

The topic and possible decision will be on the Wednesday, August 10 board of education meeting agenda.

A couple of the parents were concerned how their children would react if they knew guns were in the school. Questions were asked how the program would be paid for. Several commented that 120 hours was not enough training and felt the teachers wouldn’t be able to cope with an active shooter scenario.

The first speaker, Tana Wymer, likened the proposed fencing and gating of the elementary playground into a trap for children that might be running away from an active shooter.

Andy Barnett expressed concerns how the weapons would be securely stored at school away from students. The guns couldn’t be left unattended.

Several speakers had questions about the SPOs passing psychiatric evaluations and perhaps the possibility of becoming the active shooter.

Nicky Comstock said the administration has so much to do now, that adding the duties of SPO would be too much.

Michael Goff said he wished “we didn’t have to have this conversation.” Teachers are first responders. He said “would I feel safe knowing a sane person with a gun showed up when an insane person” with a gun is there?

A question on insurance and liability was answered by Superintendent Mitch Barnes, with the district being liable. The question on insurance coverage was not answered.

Hazel Hester said she doesn’t want guns in the school. She wants the school to invest in metal detectors and more security cameras.

Jason Walker said anonymity is the strength of the program. The people serving as SPO shouldn’t be known to the community at large.

“If someone is acting violently toward my child or yours, I don’t have a problem…” Walker said.

Billy Meyers, a special forces military veteran, asked if there had been a threat assessment made of the school district buildings?

Barnes said the building has issues.

After the open forum was closed, the board went into closed session for the purpose of student, personnel and facility considerations. No motions were made.

At the July 13 WN Board of Education meeting in closed session, the board hired for the 2022-23 school year Lani Clayton as the pre-kindergarten through 12th grade counselor; and Stephanie Haffner as an elementary paraprofessional. Nathan Ramsey will be moved on the non-certified salary schedule to head maintenance.