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REEDSPORT -- A month after the tragic killing of 20 children at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, local officials are looking find ways to minimize future risk.

City of Reedsport officials have met with employees of Highland Elementary School and Reedsport Community Charter School to examine safety and security measures and to make sure students are as safe as possible during school hours.

Shortly after the Dec. 17 Newtown, Conn., shooting, City Manager Jonathan Wright and Police Chief Mark Fandrey visited Reedsport schools to assess safety and security. Overall, the schools are maintaining adequate safety measures, but there's always room for improvement.

'Unfortunately these things can happen anywhere," Fandrey said.

Over the past few years, the loss of school resource officers hit public schools from coast to coast, taking away an extra level of security.

'For us, we lost a valuable resource," RCCS Principal Laura Davis said. A uniformed officer was a welcome presence, she said.

'It was nice to have an SRO to chat with our kids," she said. 'Police officers were seen as a partner, someone kids didn't need to be afraid of but someone who they could turn to for help."

Fandrey said although his department is short-staffed, he is exploring options for sending officers to both schools.

With the absence of an SRO, it's even more important for teachers, staff members and students to know what to do in an emergency.

'The biggest problem is complacency," Fandrey said. 'It's just human nature. Businesses, schools, even the police department gets complacent, and that's when things can start to go wrong."

Davis agrees, as does Jim Thomas, the district's superintendent and principal at Highland Elementary. Both said there are measures in place to make sure complacency doesn't lead to major problems.

Every few years a safety assessment of both schools is completed. Fandrey said he completed one upon his arrival to Reedsport two years ago, but it is something that continually needs to be updated and maintained.

'We're working hard on this, and the more minds you put together, the better the solutions that you come up with," Fandrey said.

Reedsport will host a South Coast School Safety event on Monday, Jan. 21.

Reedsport Mayor Keith Tymchuk is taking a proactive approach, aiming to rally South Coast citizens and leaders to prevent random violence.

'It's going to be about best practices, what are we doing on the South Coast to makes schools safe, what kinds of things can we do to help make schools and communities safe," Tymchuk said. 'It's a discussion that ought to be had."

State Sen. Arnie Roblan and Rep. Caddy McKeown, will be invited, along with various schools, police departments, first responders, city councilors, administrators and school board members from Yachats to Port Orford.


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