ALLPORT – With the events of Oct. 12 still on their minds, members of the West Branch Area Board of Education and the public discussed concerns about school safety at Monday’s regular school board meeting.
State police at Clearfield said two males were reported to be carrying a long gun and a handgun in a grassy area near the playground of the school at about 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 12.
Witnesses to the incident reported that one of the males pointed a weapon toward the playground area of the school.
An early report from police stated that the school and the immediate area around the school were searched. Everything was reportedly found to be secure.
Police said one person was said to have been dressed in camouflage.
Police were assisted at the scene by members of the Clearfield County Emergency Response Team, Morris-Cooper Regional Police, the Clearfield County’s Sheriff’s office, the Clearfield County Emergency Management Team and local volunteer fire and ambulance personnel.
Parent Samantha Shephard presented petitions to the board as well as recommendations.
“Communication seemed to be the biggest issue,” commented Shephard. She went on to ask why the teachers did not know what was going on.
She said that bus drivers were not aware, the day care was unaware and that neighbors were not notified of what was going on.
Shephard recommended contacting the Department of Education to come in to do an assessment of the schools security. Shephard indicated that the assessment was free. Later in the meeting the board approved a motion to contact the Department of Education about the assessment.
Shephard also recommended holding an assembly to let the children know that they are safe in their school. She also said that the kids who alerted officials about the threat are not being treated well by other students.
Ronald Mollura, school board president, said that things are in motion to address concerns.
Resident Lois Moore suggested a High School Crime Watch program to get high school students more involved.
“It’s a team effort,” said Moore. “Everyone has to work together.”
One member of the public wanted to know when the camera system and door locks would be fixed. Hayward said that there are some issues with the front doors. Sean Wechtenhiser, high school principal, said that the camera company was in on Friday.
One item on the agenda, allowing the carrying of cell phones in schools, was deferred until a future committee meeting.
The next committee meeting will be in December.
Scott Thomas, Pennsylvania state trooper and district resident, expressed disappointment in the board for not contacting the state police and asking their representatives to attend the meeting.
Thomas indicated that the state police could give the board and public an update on what they know and where they are at in the investigation. He also said that he, and other troopers and law enforcement officials who have children in the district would be willing to volunteer to watch the playground on their days off.
Board member Anna Mae Pezzulla expressed concerns over students being outside during daytime school hours.
“I don’t feel real comfortable with students in the playground during rifle deer and bear season,” said Pezzulla.
“I’m not saying your concerns aren’t valid,” commented Hayward. “I just think we need to be careful. We can’t live our lives in fear.”
A motion was made to keep students in during deer and bear season, but failed to pass due to a tie in voting. In favor of the motion were board members Pezzulla, Tim Eyerly, Robert Smith and Larry Allen. Voting against the motion were Mary Ann Couteret, Tom Veres, Mollura and Erling Anderson.
A motion was passed to post school ground as no trespassing and no hunting.