The Red Lake and the Columbine school shootings were too close to home for Brainerd School District Superintendent Jerry Walseth.
Walseth was working for the Eaton School District in Fort Collins, Colo., at the time of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. The two Colorado towns are 73 miles apart. Red Lake, the scene of this week's school shooting, and Brainerd are 130 miles apart.
Walseth said there is a tremendous sadness over the loss of the people who were killed in the shooting spree at Red Lake School. He said the whole school and community will be affected by the tragedy.
Walseth ordered the American flags in the school district to fly at half-staff.
"It is tragic that we (as a school district) have to deal with these issues," said Walseth. "This can happen anywhere in America and so close to where we live."
Walseth said the tragedy reinforces the relationship between school officials and students.
"Everyone's journey through life is an individual one and we need to assist and observe as much as we can," said Walseth. "Messages are being sent by people and we need to know how to interpret it. This is a very important piece."
Walseth said the shootings in Red Lake emphasize that more programs could be added for intervention and preventing bullying at the schools. He said school officials need to understand as much as they can about the students they serve.
More security has been added in the Brainerd schools. Brainerd High School became a closed campus this school year. The high school's front entrance off of Fifth Street was remodeled for more windows that will enable increased observation as visitors come and go. All the doors except the entrance doors are locked throughout the school day.
Walseth said having a closed campus has increased attendance.
Every school in the district has a crisis/emergency plan in place that is practiced throughout the year, Walseth said.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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