NORMAL — McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus reiterated Monday that safety remains the district’s top priority, following Friday morning’s incident when a student took several handguns to school and fired one in a classroom.
District officials had a debriefing session early Monday morning and said security issues will be addressed by staff members and administrators in the coming days, weeks and months. Niehaus and NCHS Principal Dave Bollmann also met with faculty and staff Friday afternoon.
“When we put the security system in, what we were trying to do was keep those (with weapons) from coming in,” said Niehaus. “Now that we know that (weapons) can also come from within, we will see what we can do to beef up that area.”
On Friday, students were evacuated to nearby Eastview Christian Church and reunited with parents, a process that in some instances, took several hours. Only parents or legal guardians were allowed to sign students out, but each student was reunited with family through a faculty member or counselor.
“It was really nice we were able to do it that way, but our reunification process has to be faster,” Niehaus said. “We also have to improve communications. It would be better to have some two-way radios like walkie-talkies for everyone.”
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Niehaus said officials will review and evaluate the entire security system, noting, for instance that “In our junior highs, we don’t have backpacks traveling and we do in our high schools and I think that will be drawn into question fairly quickly.”
Metal detectors also have been brought up.
When students returned to class Monday, they were reminded by administrators that counseling services are available throughout the week and that the school is safe, but that they should keep their eyes and ears open and to quickly report any suspicious behavior.
There were no injuries in Friday’s incident that occurred in an east hallway classroom next to the gym; there are no classrooms above that room. The student with the gun was tackled by health and physical education teacher Derrick Schonauer. About four or five students assisted Schonauer after he wrestled the student to the ground.