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Tamaqua school safety proposal to include guns, alarms

The Tamaqua Safety Commission will propose seven areas of recommendations to the Tamaqua Area School Board in the near future, including arming some staff.

The group, which is composed of board members, first responders, school staff and parents, met for the fifth and final time on Monday evening. According to Tamaqua Area School Board President Larry Wittig, the recommendations will likely be made at a board meeting next month.

The district has made statewide news over the past year with its former controversial policy to arm staff, which was rescinded in July. However, one of the seven recommendations that will be proposed to the board’s security committee next month will indeed deal with armed personnel.

“I believe as we got to the end of it and certainly we had discussion regarding it, was that overall that the commission believed that legally and properly trained individuals would be a benefit in an active shooter situation,” said district superintendent Ray Kinder during the meeting. “And that the district investigate the use of these properly trained individuals for use during and outside the school day, and attempting for us to get grants to support the recommendation.”

The in-depth specifics of some of these recommendations have not been hashed out yet. In regard to arming personnel, who will it be? Staff? Police? Others?

“What we didn’t define here is specifically who is going to do it,” said Wittig after the meeting. “You can leave that to your own imagination … We’re not specifying, we’re not eliminating.”

Wittig added, “I think some people want us to say ‘except for’; no way we’re going to say ‘except for.’ That’s the whole point. If someone wants to pursue the training, we would encourage them to do that; whoever that is.”

Other notable topics of recommendations included areas such as building access and communication.

“I like the idea of alarms and some kind of communication system,” Wittig said. “If something happens, everybody knows it’s happening at the same point. That’s all important; that minimizes the loss of life. But to deter, doing all this other stuff is preventative in its nature, but it’s not absolute. And nobody can say that it’s absolute. The only absolute thing we know is that in order to stop it, it has to be confronted by force. We want to deter them, and we want to stop them.”

Policy 705 is long gone, but it seems that a new law-abiding policy is on the horizon.

The school board will host a workshop meeting at 7 tonight, with the regular meeting Jan. 21. Wittig mentioned that the board will have conversations to review specifics about the recommendations; some of it would likely come during executive sessions in the coming weeks.