Superintendent: Hartland North took gun scare seriously
No suspects found after students saw man with a gun
No gunman was ever found, but Superintendent Glenn Schilling said Hartland North Elementary School administrators took all the proper precautions after students said they saw someone with a gun last week in a nearby wooded area.
"We cannot take these things lightly," Schilling said. "Twenty years ago I would have responded differently. I probably would have walked in the woods myself. But now we follow different procedures, whether it's at a school or mall.
"We take any kind of situation that implies a threat seriously. We've had many experiences in the country to not ignore anything and to take action immediately."
The case remains open, but Village of Hartland Police do not have any new leads.
Police initially said the two children heard a gunshot or a "loud bang" before going back inside the school Nov. 15.
Schilling said Friday that the children did not hear a gunshot. Rather, one of the students saw the individual, whom they described as possibly a teenage male wearing a hoodie, holding a gun.
"Whatever it was, they were concerned," Schilling said. "They were literally concerned seeing this guy in the woods."
Schilling said Principal Heather Grindatti took their story seriously and contacted police. Hartland North, 232 N. Church St., houses about 475 students in early childhood to second grade.
Police immediately placed the school on a Level 1 lockdown at about 2:40 p.m. "Our main concern was the safety of the kids," said Hartland Police Chief Robert Rosch.
St. Charles Catholic Church and School, 313 Circle Drive, and an adjacent daycare were also put on lockdown for precautionary reasons.
Police surrounded the area and did two sweeps of the woods searching for suspects, but did not find anything, Rosch said.
Schilling said the schoolchildren were released about 10 minutes after the normal release time as police had the school well-monitored.
Rosch added that there was also a citizen report of a teenager who appeared visibly upset at a nearby park. The chief wasn't sure whether that was related to the alleged gunman. Schilling noted that Arrowhead High School had already been released and that many students often cut through the area when walking home. But he said he just isn't sure who this individual might have been or where he or she came from.
And Schilling said school administrators did a good job of keeping everyone under control once the lockdown began.
"Our staff made kids comfortable, and we have a response team that is highly trained," he said. "Teachers did very well and made sure everything flowed well when releasing them and to make sure the kids were calm."
Schilling said he met with school administrators later that night and sent a letter to parents to dispel any rumors and to inform them that the school was safe.
The superintendent added that there was a small police presence at the school on Friday, which saw regular attendance numbers.
"We just wanted to make people feel secure and make it a normal day for students and not build any anxiousness," Schilling said.
But he added that he also wants to meet with fellow nearby administrators and schools to discuss protocol on school safety in case something like this happens again.
"We want to revisit our plans and keep them updated," Schilling said. "We felt everything was very secure and safe, but we will review emergency plans and will look at what we could have done differently or better."
Schilling added that while no suspect has been found, he is appreciative that the students came forward.
"We commended the students and told them that they did the right thing in reporting it," Schilling said. "We told them you need to tell the nearest adult those kind of things."
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