Pottsville, Schuylkill County -- Pottsville Area School District is home to some 3,000 students. Soon, it will also be home to armed officers with a right to use deadly force to protect students and staff. The district-wide security upgrade announced Wednesday night comes after much internal discussion and consultation with Pottsville Police Department. "We met with the city police, a representative from there and we pretty much took their use of force policy, adopted it for us," said Pottsville Area School Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Zwiebel on Thursday.
Dr. Zwiebel says the decision to utilize armed officers was months in the making. It all started last December following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. Now, nine months later the new policy will finally take effect in Pottsville Area. "We purposely took our time in setting this program up. We want to make sure if we're going to to this that we do it right."
Glenn Hoak of Pottsville has a daughter who is a sophomore at Pottsville Area High School. He says he is in full support of the new safety policy. "Whatever they need to do to protect the children the kids, you know. Yeah. Sure."
Pottsville Area student Maddy Suender and her mother are reluctant supporters of having armed officers at school. "It doesn't make me feel less safe but I don't think there's really a need for it," said the high school senior. Her mom, Ellen Suender added, "We found it unusual but I guess that's the way things are going now. That's the way the world is."
The new security policy at Pottsville Area will have two armed officers stationed at the high school as well as two each at the middle and elementary school centers at any given time during the school day. One of Billie Jo Schuettler's children attends John S. Clarke Elementary Center. The other goes to DHH Lengel Middle School. She agrees with the new security policy but only to a degree. "I don't think that they need an armed officer at the elementary level. Possibly at the middle school. I mean there are a lot of fights." Despite her mixed feelings, she supports the superintendent. "I'm sure that he gave a lot of thought to it," said Ms. Schuettler.
Dr. Zwiebel says the armed officers will begin their work at all three Pottsville Area school buildings within the next two weeks.