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Norwood-Norfolk Central School to hold active shooter training

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NORFOLK - Police agencies will descend on Norwood-Norfolk Central School on Wednesday and Thursday, but not for an emergency situation.

They’ll be participating in active shooter training for the next two days at the school.

While New York State Police will lead the exercise, “they have invited law enforcement agencies in the area to participate as well,” Norwood-Norfolk Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie said.

She said law enforcement officers plan to conduct four training sessions over two days.

“They’re going to use our school building to stage possible situations with an intruder or intruders with possible explosive devices. It’s really up to them as to how they set the stage,” she said.

Capt. Michael Girard, New York State Police Troop B zone commander, Canton, said passers-by at the school were likely to see little since the majority of the exercise would be inside the school.

“They’ll probably be seeing a mechanical robot that we’ll deploy there for training. Everything else is inside the school,” he said.

The exercise was planned because of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.t, Mrs. Kirnie said.

“It was on the heels of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., that Tom Burns (superintendent of St. Lawrence Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services) invited state troopers and sheriff’s department representatives to BOCES to talk to superintendents about how to keep our schools safer, to talk to us about our emergency plans,” she said.

“Every school does have very formal, extensive emergency plans that we share with law enforcement,” Mrs. Kirnie added.

She said troopers offered to do safety walk-through visits of schools and asked if they could the buildings for active shooter training.

“It certainly helps hone their skills,” the superintendent said.

It also benefits the school districts where the exercises are held by giving law enforcement agencies a familiarity with the building, Mrs. Kirnie said

No students, teachers or staff will be involved in the exercise, which is being held during mid-winter break.

“We are not having teachers or staff involved. We have chosen the break (for the exercise) specifically for that reason,” she said. “In this case, we felt there was more the possibility of people getting in the way. If staff were here, they would be pretty much confined to a space in their room.”

The district will also be holding lockdown drills to hone their emergency preparation skills.

“We are going to have our own lockdown drills this spring, very possibly several before the end of the school year so everyone is on the same page and it works,” Mrs. Kirnie said. “We want the bad guys to know we’re on top of our game.”

She said a meeting was also planned for this week with officials from the town of Norfolk and village of Norwood to start discussions “about using their police forces as a rotating presence in the school. Ironically we’re meeting as the active shooter training is going on,” she said.

Mrs. Kirnie said Norwood-Norfolk already has office space for law enforcement officials, with a phone and computer available for their use.

“As a result, we’re seeing on a daily basis local police, sheriff and state police in our building,” she said.

This week’s drill and discussion about placing a school resource officer in the district come following a January lockdown after a Norfolk man was charged with bringing a BB pistol inside the building.

State police had charged Steven R. Wells, 60, with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree harassment and fourth-degree stalking on Jan. 25 following an early morning incident at the school. He was wearing a shoulder holster with a black Desert Eagle BB pistol, which is considered an imitation pistol, beneath his jacket, troopers said.

Wells arrived at the school at 7:20 a.m. seeking to deliver a package to a teacher he had spent time with in the days before the incident. The teacher told police Wells had been stalking her in the days prior to the incident. Wells was taken into custody without incident at the school that morning.

“Our latest real lockdown was a better training opportunity than we have ever had in terms of our procedures. We realize places where we can and will improve to keep the school secure,” Mrs. Kirnie said.

Among the initiatives district officials have taken is to change their building access procedures beginning Monday when students and staff return from their mid-winter break.

There will only be one secure entrance at the middle school starting on Monday. The high school entrance will be for students only and for public use after school hours, and the doors to the elementary lobby will be for students only during the school day and open to the public for public events.

“Parents and family members must enter through the middle school entrance only and wait for their children in the entryway,” Mrs. Kirnie said in a letter to family members. “Except with special permission, parents/guardians may not escort students to their lockers or classrooms. Parents/guardians may enter the school for verified appointments only.”

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