An example of a new window that will be installed at West-Liberty Salem school. Contributed photo

West Liberty-Salem improving safety measures following school shooting

The administration at West Liberty-Salem Local is looking into hiring a school resource officer and will soon install added safety measures in the wake of a shooting in January at the district’s high school.

The district is also reviewing the need for metal detectors, but no decision has been made.

Ely Serna, 17, has been accused of sneaking a shotgun into West Liberty-Salem High School on Jan. 20 and shooting 17-year-old Logan Cole twice. Cole was shot once in the chest and once in the side.

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Cole is still recovering but has returned to classes part-time.

The district will make changes to the campus that houses kindergartners through 12th graders, Superintendent Craig Hissong said. An escape window will be installed in every classroom. The district purchased 74 of them. Nearly 1,200 students attend the district.

Many students jumped out of windows during the school shooting. Hissong said in an interview with the Springfield News-Sun just days after the shooting that improvements needed to be made to ensure students can get out of the building whenever they need to.

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Currently many windows at the school barely open.

“The windows will fully open, with just the pull of one latch, all the way out,” Hissong said. “It will be easy to get out if necessary.”

Screens covering the windows before the shooting also have been removed, Hissong said, making an escape easier. Also, film will be put over all windows, exterior and interior, to make it tougher for a window to break.

During the shooting, police said Serna allegedly shot into two classrooms through windows. A student, Adam Schultz, was hit by a pellet during the gunfire but didn’t require medical treatment.

Along with the safety upgrades, the school district is seeking a grant to hire long-term counselors. Experts who spoke with the Springfield News-Sun said effects from a school shooting can linger for months and years and it’s important for the district to have resources for students’ mental health.

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The administration will hold a meeting Wednesday, April 5, with teachers to discuss what other safety measures are needed at the school. Hissong said he believes safety measures put into place before the shooting worked, but the district is always trying to get better.

One way to get better is to possibly hire a school resource officer, Hissong said. A resource officer is an active police officer who works in a school throughout the school day. The only school in Champaign County with a school resource officer as of now is Graham Local Schools. Clark County districts share several school deputies while the Springfield City School District has multiple dedicated city police officers in its hallways.

“We are looking into whether we can get one at the start of the next school year,” Hissong said.

Door locks also will be improved in the school district to protect students and teachers, he said. It’s tough to determine whether a door is locked from the inside with the current locks. The new locks will have a clear indicator on the inside.

Ely Serna remains at a juvenile detention facility in Marysville. He’s due in court again Friday, April 7, for a competency hearing to determine if he can stand trial.

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