Raising awareness

Shooting reinforces need for safety plans, superintendent says

Last week, a suspicious vehicle was spotted in the parking lot at Ridgeview Elementary School, prompting educators to lock down the building and notify police officers.

The incident proved to be nothing at all. Merely a misunderstanding by a student's relative.

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Nonetheless, it's exactly that kind of suspicion and awareness that public and school officials need in today's society where violence can spring out-of-nowhere, said Pete Bergmann, Moffat County School District Superintendent.

"It takes a lot of eyes and a lot of people with goals of keeping our kids safe," said Bergmann, who credited the Ridgeview staff and parents for spotting a potential problem. "Everyone has to be concerned with the safety of our kids."

School safety was again on educators' minds across the country Monday when reports began surfacing of the worst school shooting in U.S. history at Virginia Tech, a college in Blacksburg, Va. According to CNN, a gunmen killed 32 people in a dorm and classroom building at the college; another 29 were wounded and admitted to area hospitals, as of early Monday evening.

The incident is the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, eclipsing tragedies at the University of Texas in 1966 and Columbine High School in 1999. The Virginia Tech shooting comes about eight months after the September 2006 incident at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey.

The Bailey shooting reverberated through the Moffat County School District and caused school officials to review all emergency response plans.

Bergmann said Monday's incident at Virginia Tech reinforces the district's need to continually review and update school safety plans and security measures.

"It raises your awareness," the superintendent said.

"No matter what kind of plans or security system you have set up, they're always going to be vulnerable. But, that should not lessen our vigilance to take every safety precaution we can to minimize these kinds of tragedies."

He added, "I think we've got the safety and security measures in place and will take this incident as further proof that no one is immune from this kind of violence."

Officials from Colorado Northwestern Community College could not be reached for comment Monday.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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