GREENFIELD — The scene inside Greenfield-Central High School this week was chilling.
Four Greenfield police officers stormed into classrooms, guns drawn, in an active training exercise made necessary by the rash of school shootings that have plagued the United States.
With Hancock County schools resuming classes in less than three weeks at the end of summer break, school safety is at the top of many minds.
“We want the community to know that we’re parents too, and we’re training on this all the time,” said Capt. Corey Decker, who helped lead the in-school training July 11-13.
As a father of two teenagers in Hancock County Schools, Decker said he knows how terrifying the thought of school shootings can be.
On Tuesday, addressing officers sitting at desks normally occupied by teens, he spoke of very real scenarios in which gunmen have roamed school hallways in search of victims.
Decker said the Greenfield Police Department’s approach to handling school shootings is clear — any officer on the scene will immediately enter the building to stop the shooter.
“No hesitation,” said Decker, a 12-year member of GPD.
With Greenfield-Central schools set to reopen on Aug. 2, Greenfield resident Richard Wagner requested time to address the school board about school safety at its monthly meeting Monday night.
He asked if the school board has reviewed school safety and security measures since a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school left 21 dead and 17 injured in late May.
“I wanted to communicate my concerns,” said Wagner, a retired teacher whose son teaches at Greenfield-Central High School.
There have been 27 school shootings in the United States this year, according to Education Week, an independent news organization that has been covering education for more than 40 years.
There have reportedly been 119 school shootings since 2018, when Education Week began tracking such incidents. The highest number of shootings — 34 — occurred last year.
Greenfield-Central superintendent Harold Olin said all four Hancock County school districts are in frequent contact with local law enforcement and Hancock County Emergency Management to review the latest safety and security plans.
“We have regular conversations about school safety throughout the county and have a lot of common practices in place,” he said. “In addition, (Greenfield-Central) has 10 to 12 staff members who are trained school safety specialists trained through the (state) Department of Education. They’re not armed, but are trained in best practices who then share that information with the rest of us.”
Olin and Decker said the school and police force study the aftermath of school shootings throughout the country in order to learn from them and adjust local protocols.
“We’re always reflecting on what we’re doing and if we need to make some adjustments,” said Olin, who said most of the school’s preparedness will go unrecognized by students.
“Nothing new will impact students at the start of this school year. We have a wand we can and do use for occasional searches when warranted, but you won’t see students going through metal detectors or anything like that,” he said.
While Decker understands the fear of school shootings hitting close to home, he wants the community to know the Greenfield Police Department is in constant training to handle any situation.
The department works closely with the Hancock Sheriff’s Department, Hancock County Emergency Management and other local response agencies to prepare for a coordinated effort, he said.
Greenfield officers are given maps of local schools and taught to become familiar with each building.
In the event of a school shooting, Decker encourages parents to give the officers the time and space they need to save lives.
“You’re emotional and you want your kids out of there, but we don’t want parents flying to the scene. We need to keep the scene as controlled as possible,” he said.
Keeping parents at bay also helps with the reunification process after a school shooting event, he said. “We want to make sure every student is accounted for and reunited with their family, so we need to have a controlled situation.”