After more than two years of discussions, planning and training, a small Idaho school district has implemented a new safety precaution: Storing firearms on campus.
The Garden Valley School District is located about 50 miles outside of Boise and serves about 250 students in Kindergarten through grade 12. With only 11 deputies serving more than 2,000 square miles, the response time for the remote school district could be as much as 45 minutes, and in an emergency situation, such as an active shooter scenario, the distance could prove to be a real concern.
“Garden Valley is in a unique circumstance,” Boise County Sheriff Ben Roeber told the Idaho Statesman. “Where they are located geographically, we don’t have the staffing size to where we can guarantee safety.”
The idea to put guns in the school was first brought before the school board shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when a gunman entered the school and opened fire, killing 20 school children and six staff members. The incident shocked the nation and stirred controversy over safety in schools and gun control, among other topics.
Following the Sandy Hook shooting, Alan Ward, Vice Chair of the Garden Valley School District said he believed placing weapons in the school should be considered, KTVB reported.
More than two years later, Alan’s idea has come to fruition, and the school now houses four rifles and six staff members have been trained and certified to use the firearms, which are stored securely in safes. In addition to the initial preparations, the certified staff members must complete ongoing training sessions several times throughout the year.
“When I first arrived, the situation the district was in was very apparent — in the event of a violent intruder in the building, the response of local law enforcement could conceivably be over 30 minutes and … the potential loss of life could be catastrophic,” said Marc Gee, who will fill the position of superintendent next month.
“This has not been a knee-jerk reaction, but a careful, deliberate process, as it should be,” he added.
Ward said they have received input from the community and spoken with the school’s attorney while writing the weapons policy.
“It’s completely, thoroughly vetted,” he said.
In fact, the teachers trained alongside Boise County Sheriff’s deputies.
“Being in law enforcement, training is never-ending. We train virtually every day on these kinds of things,”Roeber said. “So, the school knows that they have a daunting task of trying to keep up that training. And I think that they’ve shown commitment to try and accomplish that.”
Roeber explained that while authorities tried to get a school resource officer for the district, the limited budget and insufficient resources didn’t make it feasible at this time.
“Garden Valley felt it necessary to come up with an alternative plan until we could make that happen,” Roeber said, and this was that plan, one that Ward said has received support from residents.
Ward added that signs will soon be posted throughout the school, warning anyone intent on causing harm that the staff is armed. He hopes the signs will serve as a deterrent, but more so that an event will never arise where the weapons will need to be used.