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Partners in Education: Gun Safety, protection, and upgrades in the Appleton Area School District

Posted: 5:26 PM, Nov 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-07 18:27:10-05

APPLETON (NBC 26) -- It's a different world we live in these days, there's more security and safety measures everywhere we go, and it's the same for our schools. The Appleton School District is taking prevention seriously.

"As a school district, we think about our students safety and security everyday, and we have everyday ever since Columbine," said District Chief Financial Officer of Appleton School District.

More than 20 years have passed since 12 students and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School by two high school seniors. It's a memory that's forever etched in our minds, and it's something that's always been on the minds of Appleton School leaders.

"I don't know that if maybe we've become hardened by it, but in schools, it's something that doesn't shock us any longer, we know we have to stay vigilant," said Hartjes.

Lt. Mike Frisch is a school resource officer coordinator. He trains staff and students to trust their instincts in emergency situations.

"We empower our staff and students here in Appleton, to do react, make a decision, go with that decision whatever it is, you're doing something" said Frisch.

Thanks to a large grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in 2018 the Appleton Area School District received $1.5 million. One of the schools that's received a bulk of that money is Horizons Elementary School. Hartjes said it's much more than just physical upgrades.

Cindy Heegeman, youth advocate officer, knows what to look for at Horizons elementary school.

"I'm the good cop," she says. "I'll take them, ask them, 'Is there something going, on how can we help?' How can we de-escalate? What can we do together to help them come down?"

The leadership is a constant in the entire school.

"Whether it's fire drills, tornado, and ALICE trainings, another thing we do that we hope we never to use but if we do we'll be prepared," said Principal Karen Brice of Horizons Elementary School.

Prepared, aware, and educated.

"I feel safe in my community" - a state of mind the entire school district hopes to keep for a lifetime to come.