Altoona officials hope to comfort, inform parents on school shoo - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Altoona officials hope to comfort, inform parents on school shooting protocol

Altoona (WQOW) -

The Altoona School District and the Altoona Police Department partnered up to hold a town hall meeting to discuss how they plan to keep students safe at school Wednesday evening.

The school district and Altoona Emergency Management personnel informed parents about the protocols in place through a presentation about what would happen if a shooter were to enter into a school.

The presentation parents saw Wednesday was similar to the same information all of the Altoona School District's staff saw earlier in the school year. Chief Jesse James said police and school officials have decided to start sharing a similar presentation to students, starting with sixth graders.

Officials said every emergency crisis is handled differently, but Chief Jesse James told News 18 authorities are constantly staying up-to-date learning about the newest technology available, and by practicing drills to ensure officials would be able to adapt to any circumstance.

James added there are multiple communication systems between the school district and law enforcement in case of an emergency. Some of those systems include overhead speakers teachers can use in immediate situations, and apps on law enforcement cell phones which can start an alert in all of the schools at once, or they can target a specific building.

James told News 18 parents, school staff, and most importantly the police need to be prepared for anything.

"If we don't invest that time and effort into it, as far as I'm concerned, I'm failing as a police chief," said James. "We should be adequately researching, looking at statistics of all of the previous shootings and get a good handle on this, and what it could possibly look like in our community. We're not going to know everything, however we can be prepared for it," James told News 18.

There was a session of the meeting where parents were able to ask officials about their concerns. Many parents questioned law enforcement about how the school is protected during school and after-school events. The most heated question asked was about adding extra security and metal detectors to the schools.

School district staff said it's something that could be discussed in the future, but adding added security like metal detectors could decrease the "welcoming feeling" the school district strives to achieve.

Tim Lima has two children in the Altoona School District. He brought up questions about what type of security is in the school system because he feels like the entire community needs to be prepared for a crisis.

"We're in the Midwest, we're so trusting and I believe it's not if something it's going to happen, I think it's when something is going to happen,"  We need to ask ourselves are we prepared if something does happen," Lima said.

The school district and police department reminded parents to talk to their students about emergency situations, and instruct them to report anything suspicious on social media sites. James added if anyone becomes informed of a strange message or circumstance, the most important thing you can do to keep your community safe is alert police immediately.

James said a new mass alert system will soon be available to community members in both Altoona and Eau Claire because of a partnership between the Altoona Police Department, the City of Eau Claire Police Department, and Eau Claire County Emergency Management Services. The new technology will inform people on emergency situations faster.

News 18 will have more details about the new technology as it becomes available in the coming weeks. 

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