City, School Leaders Discuss School Safety

By Katie Friedman, Correspondant

As members of Maple Lake’s city council and school board assembled Tuesday, February 27, for a long-planned joint meeting at City Hall, the conversation was naturally dominated by a topic at the top of most Americans’ minds today: school safety.

“You’ve got everyone on pins and needles right now,” Superintendent Mark Redemske said, “and I don’t know where it’s all going to end.”

Now, along with drills for fire, tornadoes, and potential trouble at a nuclear power plant less than 10 miles away, students and staff are required by state law to practice five times each school year for an active shooter event. These days the school building uses a buzz-in system, and though 70-some security cameras are mounted throughout, they provide only an after-the-fact recording.

Redemske did not want to predict whether arming teachers would become a favored option, saying, “I know our current sheriff is against it. I feel pretty comfortable, myself, around firearms. But all it takes is one person to grab you from behind, somebody grabs the gun, and all of a sudden you have the wrong people with the gun. So, I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. But the main thing is we have safety issues every other school district has.”

Even before last month’s Florida shooting and other plausible threats made against school districts closer to home, Redemske said that all of the county’s school superintendents had planned to meet with Wright County Sheriff Joe Haggerty and County Attorney Tom Kelly to discuss and coordinate strategies, and had done so one week previously. He had also been talking with State Representative Marion O’Neill in recent days to weigh in with thoughts on potential legislative measures to be crafted over coming weeks.

While Redemske described the school’s current resource officer, Jeff Fox, as “top of the line,” he said the district pays only for half-time coverage, with Fox present on school premises three days a week. In past years, he noted, the city had shared that cost and would be most welcome to do so again, should the council see fit. (Currently, the price of a fulltime deputy during the school year is $38,000. Records show that in 2006 the $24,000 cost was evenly split between the school and the city.) With hopes of extra security money for schools to be one product of this year’s legislative session, Redemske suggested the school and the city might want to revisit the subject once that is a known quantity, adding that Fox does not limit his activities to the school building and the that the city could benefit from extra coverage, as well.

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