Waterford student presents safety plan to BOE

WATERFORD — A fresh addition of ideas on school security and safety was offered to the Wolf Creek Local Schools Board of Education Monday night as a Waterford High School student offered a 40-page report representing a year of work by her small class.

Katelyn Huck said her class of about five students, under the direction of English teacher Kelly Miller, spent the entire 2019-20 school year working on the project.

“Mrs. Miller asked us what school, community and world problems do we have. I chose mental health and the military, another student chose school shootings, another chose schools safety in general, one chose drugs,” Huck told the board, explaining the origin of the collaborative effort.

The result was a complete research project looking at ways the school could be improved, Miller said.

“The first thing we talked about is a full-time guidance counselor,” Huck said. “Anxiety and depression is on the rise in adolescents, and even younger kids, we’re hearing about 10-year-olds committing suicide. Having a full-time counselor will help students; the guidance counselor will be there when needed, instead of being a teacher who has to finish a class. When a panic attack happens, you can’t hit the pause button.”

Regarding school security, Huck noted the old windows, some of which are difficult to open, and the doors, at least one of which can’t be locked.

The class began by considering the benefits of a full-time school resource officer – a deputy sheriff – but abandoned that when they discovered the cost was prohibitive.

“This was a true lesson in research,” Miller said. “They started out with a proposal to bring in a school resource officer, but as their research went ahead, that changed, and they adapted the proposal.”

Huck said one solution could be starting a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in the high school.

“It would allow students to learn that discipline and it could count as an elective course,” she said. “And the person teaching the course would have military training in the event of violence on school property.”

Huck said her research indicated that the Army would pay 75 percent of the cost of having a JROTC instructor.

“It would give a chance for kids to look into the military, that person could be armed and experienced, and it would be an amazing resource for our kids,” she said. “It makes sense for our community.”

Miller told the board that the students had rigorously researched the entire proposal, which was formatted as a business plan, complete with sources and annotations. The research included online documents, books and direct interviews with knowledgeable sources.

Wolf Creek Superintendent Doug Baldwin was one of the people interviewed during the project.

“They were very professional in the way they approached this,” he said.

Board members said they wanted to look the study over before commenting on it.

“This was done by our whole class,” Huck said. “It was a collaborative passion project.”

In other business, the board:

¯ Approved receipt of a REAP (Rural Education Achievement Program) grant for $33,714 from the federal government; treasurer Rachel Miller said it was about $5,000 more than last year, although the amounts have declined over the past several years.

¯ Approved a series of accounting measures to receive a $35,344 state Student Wellness and Success Funds grant, a new allocation from the state to support mental health and social services for students. Baldwin said the funds would be used to expand the district’s contract with Life and Purpose Services.

¯ Received a donation of school supplies from Justice Riders, a Watertown motorcycle club. “We were founded for justice against child abuse, and all we do is for children,” a club representative told the board. “Sometimes we do benefits for community members who have had a fire or some other misfortune.”

The next board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in the high school library.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com

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