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NR School District hopes to ease active shooter worries

Somerset High School student Justin Rivard shows off how his invention, the JustinKase, locks into a school doorway, keeping intruders out. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Following last week’s events in south Florida, the School District of New Richmond, along with the New Richmond Police Department and the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office, sent out a joint letter to parents of children within the district in the hopes of easing the increased anxiety and and answer questions about active shooters within a school setting.

“The letter is to serve as a transparent reassurance of our proactive training for our students and staff on an annual basis,” Olson said. “In addition it outlines our collaboration with Chief Yehlik and the New Richmond Police Department and Sheriff Knudson and the St. Croix County Sheriff's Office on a plan to keep our students and staff safe.”

According to Olson, the school district has developed a comprehensive “Safety Response Manual” that outlines procedures for all types of situations. In reference to an active shooter, the district does or has done the following:

  • The school board annually approves its District Safety Response Manual.
  • All new staff, including substitutes, are trained in ALiCE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate).
  • All staff go through an ALiCE refresher annually, which has been accomplished over the years with live scenarios, discussions, additional education and other practice sessions.
  • Presentations from Police Chief Craig Yehlik and the New Richmond Police Department as all officers are certified through the FBI in advanced law enforcement rapid response training (ALERT) and visit classrooms regularly throughout the year.
  • The district also has developed a comprehensive “Reunification Plan” in the event that an entire building would need to be evacuated.
  • Administration and Staff Safety Manual reflection and discussions (annually).
  • Hosted a parent/community meeting on ALICE training in our district.

“On an annual basis, in collaboration with the New Richmond Police Department, we discuss, educate, and conduct on-site drills around an active shooter situation at both the middle school and high school in some manner,” Olson said. “With elementary students this topic is approached as it comes up. We are very sensitive to this topic with our elementary aged students. We have age appropriate resources that staff use if needed. We also try to educate parents to help them have these sensitive conversations at home to further address this topic.”

Keeping an open and honest dialogue with all of those involved in the education of the district’s students, as well as the community, is one of the main things Olson feels will go a long way toward addressing any issues within the district.

“As a district our focus is to be proactive and prepare our staff for these types of situations,” Olson said. “We continue to discuss the many layers of this epidemic with all educational stakeholders to unite together to help address this issue at all levels.”

Inventing a way to help

Somerset High School student Justin Rivard saw a need during an ALICE Training session at the SHS last school year. He saw that intruders were able to push their way through in-swinging doors during the training on how emergencies are to be handled. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, which is done for active shooter response training in schools.

Rivard was taking a metals class and had finished a fire pit in the first three weeks of the class, so he was looking for another project. Little did he know, it would lead to a patented invention that he’s hoping to develop into a business.

Rivard titled his invention “JustinKase.” After receiving a patent for his invention, Rivard contacted BPS, a steel fabrication business in East Farmington to cut the steel plates Rivard wanted for the base of the door jamb system.

At the recent Somerset Chamber of Commerce Dinner and Awards Gala, it was announced that Rivard had secured a full district order from not only the Somerset School District, but also the School District of Grantsburg.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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